‘Delia deceived us’, says Jason Azzopardi after PN leader tells media he will not resign

Delia faces open rebellion inside PN as MPs tell him to levae: ‘I feel very upset, deceived and honestly, flabbergasted’, Azzopardi says of Delia statement tol press he will not resign after five-hour meeting

Jason Azzopardi (right) with PN leader Adrian Delia at a press conference held on 1 February
Jason Azzopardi (right) with PN leader Adrian Delia at a press conference held on 1 February

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has broken ranks with party leadership, accusing Opposition leader Adrian Delia of deceiving the parliamentary group by declaring to the public he will lead the PN to the next general election.

The PN leader was facing pressure to resign after polling data showed the Nationalist Party has been unable to gain ground despite the political turmoil government faced last December. Delia’s trust rating has hit its lowest level in two years, according to a MaltaToday survey released last Sunday and the PN reversed gains made towards the end of last year.

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has said that he will lead the party into the next geenral election despite pressure from the parliamentary group to resign in the wake of dismal poll results

Stunned by dismal polls that showed trust in the beleaguered PN leader at an all-time low, Delia was confronted by his vocal parliamentary group in what Azzopardi described as a “very good, intense, serene, incisive, no holds barred meeting” lasting almost five hours.

MaltaToday was told that apart from Azzopardi, joining the fray were MPs Claudio Grech, Mario De Marco, Karol Aquilina, Beppe Fenech Adami, Ryan Callus, Chris Said, MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa, Marthese Portelli, Toni Bezzina, Kevin Cutajar, Claudette Buttigieg, and Therese Comodini Cachia.

Claudio Grech was among the most vocal, telling Delia he should find an honourable exit and make way for a new leader. Delia allies Kristy Debono and deputy leader for party affairs Robert Arrigo did not raise any issues during the debate; only secretary-general Clyde Puli made a defence of Delia.

“Practically all MPs took part with genuine respect shown towards each other. In his concluding remarks [Delia] made it clear he was going to reflect on what was said to him and come back to us, keeping in mind the greater good of the party and the country.”

But on emerging from the parliamentary group meeting, Delia was categorical about his intentions to stay on as leader and face off newly appointed Labour prime minister Robert Abela in a forthcoming general election.

Asked point blank whether he will be leading the PN into the next general election, Delia answered with a curt, “yes”. But party sources earlier told MaltaToday that a majority of MPs asked Delia to resign “for the good of the party and the country”.

“Reading the comments given to the media now by Dr Delia, I feel very upset, deceived and honestly, flabbergasted,” Azzopardi, a former PN junior minister, said.

“I, and I’m sure all of us present were, was led to believe by Dr Delia’s seemingly sincere conclusion that he would take some days to reflect and come back with his decision. I’m gobsmacked reading that a mere five minutes after the conclusion of the meeting, the time to go downstairs to the waiting media, he categorically told the media that he had decided going to lead the PN to the next general elections.

“This is not on. I feel used and my good faith abused. I feel it was a complete waste of time. Sadly, I feel he had already decided and merely used the meeting as a ruse to give a veneer of credence to his pre-planned decision. This is not fair. This is not just.”

Azzopardi said Delia should have been “man enough” to tell his MPs he had already decided to stay on. “No matter what the absolute majority of the MPs told him bluntly today, he was going to simply ride roughshod over our positions and what the absolute majority of the electorate feels about him.”