Adrian Delia allies mull expulsion threat for rebel MPs

Delia could be ready to convene an executive committee meeting on Tuesday so that he forms a board of discipline to discuss the rebels’ actions

Adrian Delia could be planning a new offensive against rebel MPs
Adrian Delia could be planning a new offensive against rebel MPs

With his fate hanging in the balance, Opposition leader and PN leader Adrian Delia is appearing unfazed by the constitutional crisis that has hit Malta.

With rebel Nationalist MPs insisting that the President of the Republic had confirmed a majority of MPs had declared to him they had no trust in Delia, the PN leader took time for a break in Gozo where he was seen eating out in a restaurant at Mgarr on Saturday afternoon.

Yet no official pronouncement from the President’s office was made on whether Therese Comodini Cachia, the MP nominated by a majority of MPs to George Vella, would be sworn in as Opposition leader. Attempts to contact the President’s spokesperson were futile.

So were calls to constitutional lawyers and academics believed to have advised Vella on his next course of action.

Allies of the embattled PN leader who spoke to MaltaToday are saying they are sure Vella is being advised that he will fall back on Article 90 (2) of the Constitution to determine that only the leader of the party in opposition, PN leader Adrian Delia, can constitutionally be Opposition leader.

But rebel MPs and constitutionalists like Giovanni Bonello, Kevin Aquilina and Austin Bencini are of a different opinion: that once Delia has lost his MPs’ trust, Vella must turn to the next MP who commands the loyalty of the opposition party.

With both sides entrenched in their positions, Delia’s allies were also claiming that a potential expulsion of rebel MPs could be on the cards. “The PN statute is clear: this is exactly as had happened when Franco Debono was banned from standing in the election for the party. What the MPs did here is tantamount to a breach of the statute, which says that the leader of the PN is the Opposition leader,” one internal party source said.

[Franco Debono had been banned from standing in the 2013 election on the PN ticket after the PN executive resolved that his actions in voting with the Opposition on a motion that led to the resignation of a minister were politically unacceptable.]

Another party source said Delia was ready to convene an executive committee meeting on Tuesday so that he forms a board of discipline to discuss the rebels’ actions. 

Rebel MPs who spoke to MaltaToday were sceptical about the threat. “Are they going to expel us all at once?” one MP said with reference to an executive committee member’s move to have the rebels’ actions censured. “Delia doesn’t have the numbers in either the executive committee or the General Council… his own supporters have been in the party too long to even consider that the PN could face such a split to expel us all from the party.” 

The same MPs yesterday told MaltaToday that the President of the Republic had confirmed with Chris Said, some two-thirds of the PN parliamentary group had declared to him their lack of trust in Delia. 

Yet on Friday evening, in a short public statement Delia said he would be loyal to party members who elected him, as well as the party statute and his Constitutional oath. 

Of the 28 PN MPs, David Agius, Robert Arrigo, Frederick Azzopardi, Anthony Bezzina, Robert Cutajar, Maria Deguara, Mario Galea, Carm Mifsud Bonnici, Clyde Puli and Edwin Vassallo supported Delia in the no-confidence vote. 

But since then, one of the MPs had reportedly backed Therese Comodini Cachia as leader of the opposition, along with the 17 MPs who voted against the PN leader. Sources said the MP had expressed disappointment at Delia’s refusal to compromise and closing the door on any kind of dialogue with the dissenting MPs. 

Should Delia be successful in forcing the expulsion of the rebel MPs, the group would have ironically become the “largest single grouping” in opposition, and constitutionally, this would mean the President would have no choice but to recognise Therese Comodini Cachia as Opposition leader. 

Delia allies this week  were fearing the possibility of more accusations being levied against Delia, in some form or other, following the publication of leaked Whatsapp messages that allegedly showed how Delia conversed with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech last year. The chats, which were published by The Sunday Times of Malta, sparked outrage among PN MPs, a majority of whom insisted Delia’s position was no longer tenable after he engaged with Fenech when it was known that he owned 17 Black. 

President George Vella this week summoned Nationalist Party MPs to gauge whether they have confidence in Adrian Delia as Opposition leader, after MPs Chris Said and Claudette Buttigieg went to him to trigger the process to remove Delia from his constitutional role. 

More in National