President is obliged to act following Delia’s no confidence vote, constitutional law expert says

The President is obliged by the Constitution to remove Adrian Delia from Opposition leader and appoint somebody else after PN MPs’ vote, Prof. Kevin Aquilina says

President George Vella (right) is obliged to remove Adrian Delia from Opposition leader and appoint someone else, given the outcome of a clear vote of no confidence
President George Vella (right) is obliged to remove Adrian Delia from Opposition leader and appoint someone else, given the outcome of a clear vote of no confidence

The President is obliged to take the initiative and appoint a new Opposition leader after Adrian Delia lost a vote of confidence, a constitutional law expert said.

The Constitution obliges President George Vella to act, more so when the result of the vote taken by the Nationalist Party parliamentary group published and confirmed by the party, Prof. Kevin Aquilina said.

The former dean of the law faculty told MaltaToday on Thursday that the situation today was different from the circumstances last February when an obscure petition branded 17 Blue Heroes was doing the rounds on Facebook.

“As the guardian of the Constitution, the President has to take the initiative because this time around the challenge to Adrian Delia is not based on speculation but a clear motion of whom we know the proponent and a voting result that was confirmed officially by the PN,” Aquilina said.

MaltaToday has reached out to the Office of the President for a comment but no reply has been forthcoming.

PN MPs on Tuesday voted on a motion put forward by Chris Said and seconded by Therese Comodini Cachia, asking whether they trusted Delia as Opposition leader. With 19 votes against and 11 in favour, Delia lost the confidence of his own parliamentary group.

If the votes of the two PN MEPs are discounted – they form part of the parliamentary group – Delia will still have lost his majority among MPs in parliament.

READ ALSO: Claudio Grech is preferred choice to replace Delia as Opposition leader

Aquilina said the situation is unprecedented and the Constitution does not list the steps the President has to follow in these circumstances.

“The procedure the President has to adopt is not determined by the Constitution, which means he has discretion on the matter. But I would assume George Vella would first want to verify the authenticity of the vote, send for Adrian Delia and inform him of his removal, and then speak to members of the PN parliamentary group, collectively or individually, to determine who from among them enjoys majority support,” Aquilina said.

Prof. Kevin Aquilina
Prof. Kevin Aquilina

He insisted that in the circumstances, the President did not need anybody’s solicitation to initiate the constitutional process to appoint a new Opposition leader. This is a position voiced earlier this week by lawyer Franco Debono.

Delia has insisted he will not be relinquishing his post as party leader, which could leave the PN in a quandary.

Aquilina noted that there was a brief interlude in 2008 when the Labour Party experienced this anomaly.

At the time, Charles Mangion served for a few months as Opposition leader, until the elected party leader Joseph Muscat resigned from the European Parliament and took up his seat in the Maltese parliament.

“In a way, there is a precedent for a situation like that which the PN faces, although the circumstances were hugely different, but the prospect of having two leaders is undesirable,” Aquilina said.

READ ALSO: Delia, a new Opposition leader and the Constitution: understanding the road ahead

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