PN insiders think statute could leave party leaderless until next election

The PN’s new statute’s articles dealing with a leadership election should Delia step down only come into force after the next general election 

Nothing can remove Delia from PN leader unless he loses a confidence motion in the General Council in 2021 – or perhaps earlier if worded differently, according to the PN statute
Nothing can remove Delia from PN leader unless he loses a confidence motion in the General Council in 2021 – or perhaps earlier if worded differently, according to the PN statute

The Nationalist Party’s new statute approved just over a month ago could preclude any chance of holding a leadership contest, before the next general election. 

The party’s beleaguered leader Adrian Delia on Tuesday lost a second motion of no-confidence in the national executive, after first losing the confidence of 16 of his 28 MPs. 

Delia, elected by paid-up members in the first ever election of its type during the PN’s convention of 2017, is insisting the confidence motions have no consequence whatsoever. 

But his opponents might still present a motion of no-confidence – as opposed to a motion of confidence – in a bid to override the new statute’s two-year preclusion on the 2019 motion that Delia had survived in the party’s General Council, which groups the party’s delegates. 

Additionally, the new statute’s rules on electing a party leader only come into effect after the next general election, leaving no other recourse for members to try and force an unrepentant Delia to a leadership ballot if that were possible. 

Article 89, which is suspended until after the next general election, deals with the election of the party leader, which according to insiders who spoke to MaltaToday, means the PN could be unable to force a leadership contest until after the next general election. 

The General Council can only be convened once the signatures of at least 200 members of the same council are collected and presented to its chair: any motion for a vote of confidence or no-confidence in Delia will need the approval of the Council’s simple majority. 

If hypothetically, Delia would lose a vote of confidence in the General Council – the third such repudiation of the PN leader – the party appears to have no mechanism in place regulating the election of a new leader, not unless the statute is reviewed again or a different interpretation is delivered by the General Council. 

It seems that unless Delia steps down of his own volition, there can be no recourse for his opponents to force Delia into an early leadership contest. Only if Delia loses a motion of no-confidence in the General Council, will he be forced to vacate the position. The next step would be to call a new leadership election in three months; except that this article, 89(2), is suspended until the next general election. 

This is bound to leave the PN’s administration in turmoil as it prepares to contemplate a new no-confidence motion presented to the chair of the General Council, a scenario that could force it to interpret the new statute’s restricting clauses.  

Further internal debate surrounds the possibility of Delia choose to resign or lose another confidence motion, but attempting to contest the leadership once again. In that case, Delia’s candidature may still not be automatic, because the new statute demands a due diligence exercise on any candidate’s “employment, profession and business interests” by an eight-member internal committee 

And it remains unclear whether it is applicable to the election of a new party leader.  This rule, Article 90 of the statute, also falls under the purview of Article 172 (3), which suspends Articles 89 to 99 until after the next general election.