Senior MPs stop ‘anti-Grech’ petition but want Metsola in 2027

Senior MPs within the Nationalist Party ramp up personal campaign to bring Roberta Metsola in as next leader

An attempt by a group of Nationalist Party delegates to garner enough signatures to force an extraordinary general council that would place pressure on Bernard Grech to step down, has been scotched by senior MPs.

Members of a small group of veteran parliamentarians told MaltaToday they had brought to an end an attempt to force the PN into a General Council that would have once again, played out its leadership troubles with internecine consequences.

Instead, the MPs told MaltaToday on condition of anonymity, they are pinning their hopes on Roberta Metsola, the president of the European Parliament, to take the PN’s lead into 2027.

For weeks now, the future of the PN – polling impossibly low figures ahead of the 2024 European elections – keeps looking one without Bernard Grech as its leader in the next general elections.

But, the MPs say, there is no replacement for Grech or even favourable timing for Metsola, who stays on as EP president up until May 2024, and then will be running once again for MEP.

“We do not have an immediate replacement, and nobody wants a leadership bloodbath that throws us once again on the rocks. Roberta Metsola has her own political ambitions – we know that it will be her victory and not the party’s in 2024. We think she can be Malta’s next prime minister if she takes over in 2024,” the MPs speaking to MaltaToday said.

Much of this strategy hinges on the prospect that Metsola might be convinced by party grandees and senior MPs to take over as leader after securing her seat in the European Parliament first in 2024. Talk of the EPP picking her as a lead candidate, an opportunity that could get her close to the job of president of the European Commission, depends totally on the off-chance that incumbent Ursula von der Leyen does not run in the coming elections.

But this group of MPs think they can take Metsola to victory in 2027. “We are confident that she would throw in her hat to lead the PN in a scenario where the European elections in 2024 will become the stage for Grech’s exit,” they told this newspaper. “The shifts in the German and French power blocs will map out the route for the next European Commission president, and it is likely that the EPP will pick Von der Leyen for a second term... that would rule out Metsola for ‘spitzenkandidat’.”

The MPs said they hope Metsola’s ambitious trajectory after her two-year term as EP president will only take her towards leadership roles – the PN’s chiefly. “We don’t see how Metsola could return to be just a regular MEP after her term as President, when she could well be aiming to become Malta’s next prime minister. That’s a serious bid, and there are MPs who would gladly give up their seat for Metsola’s co-option as Opposition leader in the House.”

The MPs also said there was “no way” that Grech could expect to be the PN’s long-term leader. “Only Metsola is the best-placed to help the PN make a quantum leap in time for 2027. Bernard cannot bring the party together nor attract new blood. Metsola on the other hand will be a formidable opponent to Robert Abela, and her success story will galvanise new voters and bring back others to the Nationalist fold.”

In the last MaltaToday-Polar survey, the trust difference between Robert Abela and Bernard Grech stood at a staggering 25 points, with an estimated divide between the Partit Laburista and Partit Nazzjonalista at over 56,000 votes.