Updated | Jean Pierre Debono to resign as MP in Delia’s bid to take seat in the House

All seven PN candidates have announced that they will give their seat to Adrian Delia should they be elected | PN’s assistant secretary-general and MP Jean Pierre Debono will trigger a casual election on the 7th district so that Adrian Delia can take up his seat in the House

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
24 September 2017, 9:24am
Last updated on 24 September 2017, 3:06pm
Partners in politics: Jean Pierre Debono and Adrian Delia
Partners in politics: Jean Pierre Debono and Adrian Delia
The newly-elected MP Jean Pierre Debono, currently the PN’s assistant secretary-general, will resign his parliamentary seat tomorrow on Monday and trigger a casual election in a bid to make way for Adrian Delia’s co-option to the House.

PN leader Adrian Delia’s quest for a seat in Parliament suffered a further setback, after a late-night effort on Friday to convince Gozo MP Frederick Azzopardi to give up his seat proved unsuccessful, MaltaToday has learned.

Sources said members of Delia’s team visited Azzopardi at home after Delia concluded a political activity at the party’s Gozo headquarters in Sannat.

The meeting lasted well into the night but ended in a stalemate, as no firm decision was reached, with Azzopardi so far refusing to commit to ceding his seat in Parliament.

Debono – only recently condemned for his handling of proxy votes in the run-up to the election – will trigger a causal election on the 7th district, from where he was elected. It is hoped Delia will be able to assume a seat in the House for the opening of the new legislature.

Delia, a newcomer who won the PN leadership with 52% of the vote of some 15,000 paid-up members, could secure a painless route to the House if none of the PN candidates on the district contest the election.

The PN candidates most likely to be elected would be former MP Antoine Borg, Sam Abela – son of former minister Tony Abela – former MP Peter Micallef and David Vassallo. Both Borg and Abela publicly stated that if elected, they would immediately resign to give their seat to Delia.  

“It is true that the seat should come from the people, but I would not be inheriting this seat if there is no resignation with a clear intention [to elect Delia], which must be respected,” Borg said on Facebook.

In the casual election, the winner will have to obtain at least half Debono’s 1,955 votes. That makes it harder for any candidate from the Democratic Party, which contested on the PN ticket as part of the ‘Forza Nazzjonali’ coalition, to be elected: both PD candidates on the 7th district, Lee Bugeja Bartolo and Monique Agius, obtained 43 and 76 votes respectively in the general election.

Debono announced his intention to resign his seat to The Malta Independent, whose director of content Pierre Portelli is a consultant to Adrian Delia.

“I took this decision to come forward on Saturday afternoon because, for me, the party comes before everyone and this is a time where the party needs us.  

“This is the whole truth and nothing but the truth and no one ever offered anything in any way. I took this decision because I love the party. I told the PN leader that we need to close this chapter as soon as possible and that we need to put an end to this ambiguity. I also want to add that I only made one request to the leader… I wanted reassurance that Delia will take care of the needs of the 7th District. This reassurance was given.”

End of a saga for Delia

Delia’s chances for a co-option always rested with one of the 26 MPs directly elected to the House, after being rebuffed by all four MPs elected by casual election.

The problem Delia’s team is facing is that they cannot guarantee that any potential candidates would refuse to contest the casual election, or that they would cede their seat in parliament if they were in fact to run and win the contested seat. Not ceding the seat would make it impossible for Delia to be co-opted.

The party can only directly co-opt someone outside the candidates’ list to a vacant seat in parliament after a casual election is held in the district.

Which is what had Delia’s team running around in Gozo, trying to secure Azzopardi’s firm commitment to resign and also trying to convince all eligible contenders for Azzopardi’s seat not to contest a possible casual election.

Even Hermann Schiavone, who was elected on the 5th district, had said he was willing to resign his  seat in Parliament, if a clear path to Delia’s co-option can be guaranteed.

In short, Schiavone is saying he would resign his seat only if all eligible contenders for the casual election declare beforehand that they would not contest the casual election or that they would resign too if they were to contest and win.

But in Gozo as well as in the fifth district, not all candidates seem willing to go down without a fight.

In Gozo, lawyer Joe Ellis would not commit himself to not contesting a casual election, saying he would not speculate on such a “hypothetical matter”.

“At this moment I don’t see why one should speculate,” he told MaltaToday. “These are delicate matters.”

Ellis said many aspects needed to be taken into consideration: “I don’t like speculating about hypothetical scenarios. So far there are no vacancies, no casual elections; it’s speculation that doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I don’t see why one should stay speculating when there is no vacancy.”

Ellis insisted that the best outcome for Delia was not to have a casual election.

“The solution is another and I don’t believe it will depend on me,” he said. “I know some candidates have declared they would not contest but I think it’s a very delicate situation and one must keep in mind the dignity of the parliamentary seat.” 

All seven PN candidates announce that they will give their seat to Delia if elected

Delia's road to Parliament is now wide open, as all seven PN candidates have revealed that they will give their seat to Adrian Delia, should they be elected.

Debono's announcement that he will be giving up his seat in Parliament will now trigger a causal election, sending PN, PL and PD candidates back to the polls of the seventh district.

 

The remaining PN candidates: Sam Abela, Paul Mazzola, Antoine Borg, Peter Micallef, Ian Vassallo and David Vassallo, have all guaranteed that they will make way for Delia to obtain a seat in Parliament.

Sam Abela alluded to his decision earlier this week, taking to social media to write: "As a candidate on the PN ticket, I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Adrian Delia will obtain a seat in Parliament."

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.