Updated | 16% of PN voters cast vote on Friday

Paid-up members of the Nationalist Party start voting in a leadership election spread over a week • New leader will be elected on 3 October

PN leadership election: early voting underway at the PN's Swieqi office (Photo: Laura Calleja/MaltaToday)
PN leadership election: early voting underway at the PN's Swieqi office (Photo: Laura Calleja/MaltaToday)

3,483 Nationalist Party members cast their ballot on Friday as voting opened in the leadership election that sees incumbent Adrian Delia battling to retain his post in a contest with Bernard Grech.

Early voting got underway yesterday and is expected to continue throughout the coming week, culminating in the final night on 3 October.

The party’s electoral commission said yesterday there were 21,499 paid-up members eligible to vote in this election. 

Delia was elected leader in September 2017 but has faced stiff internal resistance from MPs and saw his leadership challenged multiple times throughout the past three years.

Grech is a relative newcomer to the PN and was the only candidate to challenge Delia after party councillors voted for a full-blown leadership race at the start of summer.

Both contenders are expected to go head-to-head on NET TV in the only debate of the electoral campaign on Monday.

Delia has defended his track record within the party, insisting that under his leadership the PN’s financial situation had improved. However, he has had to defend himself from allegations that he exchanged WhatsApp messages with Yorgen Fenech after the businessman’s connection to 17 Black was known.

Delia has denied wrongdoing and insisted the party could not afford having a new leader with a general election around the corner.

Grech has pledged to unite the party but throughout the campaign faced flak over past incidents of tax evasion. The challenger has failed to explain why he did not pay his taxes, which were only settled recently before the leadership race got underway.

Both candidates were cleared to contest by the party’s Candidate’s Commission after a due diligence exercise on their financial affairs.