Updated | Adrian Delia to contest PN leadership election

The president of Birkirkara FC, Adrian Delia, is the first to throw in his hat in the PN leadership contest and is sure to face seasoned politicians

B'Kara FC president Adrian Delia to contest PN leadership
B'Kara FC president Adrian Delia to contest PN leadership

Adrian Delia, president of Birkirkara FC, will be contesting the upcoming Nationalist Party leadership contest, after careful consideration of the possible effects this decision could have on his – and his family’s – life, MaltaToday has learnt.

Delia, a lawyer by profession and an outsider to the PN structures, is the first to throw in his hat in the race to succeed Simon Busuttil, who announced he would be stepping down as leader after the party’s second landslide loss in the 3 June elections.

He had been making waves with various PN councillors and touching base on his interest in standing for the post of leader of the PN. 

Though he denied last week that he was interested in the post, Delia told MaltaToday yesterday that he had only come to a firm decision in the previous 24 hours.

“Although I did not do anything to solicit any support or interest, I realised that many people were approaching me and encouraging me to run for the leadership,” he said. “You slowly start to understand what this entails, what it could end up meaning, and although I already felt a sense of wanting to do something, this decision could not be taken lightly.”

Delia said that he had the full support of his wife, lawyer Nickie Vella de Fremeaux, who not only gave her consent out of a sense of a duty but because she believed – like him – that he had a lot to contribute.

“Of course my family was an important consideration, especially my five young children,” he said.

Delia claimed that he had not met Simon Busuttil and did not discuss the decision with him, even “out of respect”, since the two have known each other since their school days.

PN councillors had already confirmed with MaltaToday that Delia had been actively meeting councillors and party bigwigs and discussing his chances for the PN leadership.

Openly backing Delia is Pierre Portelli, who is currently content editor at The Malta Independent. Delia confirmed that he had spoken with Portelli and discussed his decision with him.

“He’s a friend and I think he respects me. My understanding is that he will support me as much as he can,” he said. “And I will do all I can to rope him in as much as possible, because I value his friendship, loyalty and capabilities.”

Portelli has been cautious not to reveal interest in the post of party secretary general, but has been informing many of his colleagues of his political ambitions. He was somewhat evasive with MaltaToday last week when he was asked about the subject. But councillors had a different story to tell, talking of Portelli actively engaged in promoting Delia as the natural choice. The Malta Independent, which hosts blogger and gossip columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, called on readers to vote out Labour in the lead up to the elections.

When Portelli was asked by MaltaToday about his interest in the post, he said “…in the past I have had to put my family first. If you cannot give your full commitment to a post, then it’s not for you. But it is possible that these times are more encouraging.”

In 2013 there was also a move to push Portelli for secretary general, with a MaltaToday online poll favouring him for the post.

Delia, who is legal partner with the flamboyant lawyer and former PN candidate Georg Sapiano, heads the Litigation Team at Aequitas Legal. He is also a director and company secretary at Erste Bank (Malta) Ltd, a subsidiary of Erste Bank, a major player in Central and Eastern European banking with a market capitalisation of €15 billion, and is also the second time elected and popular president of Birkirkara FC.

On his legal firm’s website he boasts that he assisted Erste Bank in a number of loan syndications, “…the most recent being a €70 million Term Loan Facility where he represented Erste Bank (Malta) Ltd as a co-arranger.”

He also writes that for years he advised the Swedish mega-company Skanska, “…the multinational construction company which completed Malta’s State of the Art, Mater Dei Hospital, the largest procurement contract on the island to date.”

Skanska are presently engaged in an ongoing dispute involving millions of euros with the Maltese government over serious specification flaws in concrete works at the “state of the art” facility.

Delia also says that today he acts for the country’s largest road construction companies and consortia, top real estate agents, development and construction companies and architectural offices. As such, his credentials could come under serious scrutiny by the media.

And he proudly admits that: “I have unparalleled experience in public procurement matters representing briefs in front of the Public Contracts Appeals Board as well as in arbitration procedures which have amounted over the past five years to over half a billion euros in tender value.”

His extensive links to business may seem at face value as an asset but they could in fact come back to haunt him, as we have seen from the media in recent months.

He is a Jesuit-educated student like Simon Busuttil and Joseph Muscat and read law at the University of Malta from where he graduated and was admitted to the bar in 1993. And he is married to lawyer Nickie Vella de Fremeaux, they are parents to five children.

His wife, also a senior associate at Aequitas, is rather vociferous on the social media, having written before the election: “I will vote with a clear conscience to bring my country back to its former glory and after that whoever is elected I will fight against the IIP scheme – why? – because like I said I am not partisan, I am a patriot and have principles and morals and am proud to be Maltese and will fight for these beliefs always. God bless Malta.”

But earlier she had also expressed anger at the viciousness on the social media stating: “It is healthy to argue (at times till you are blue in the face) but it is essential to respect one’s courage to stand up to be counted and their right to express their opinion even if you disagree with it.”

If Delia does decide to stand he will probably be up against two of the most seasoned and primed politicians with deep roots in the party, the charismatic Chris Said and Claudio Grech. Both were elected to parliament and have some serious backing in the party – Said in particular served as secretary general in the first two years after the party lost the election in 2013 and Claudio Grech showed his capability as a public speaker and moderate voice in the party. Said and Grech have both been biding their time and waiting for the opportune time to announce their candidature.

Businessman David Thake, who failed to get elected to parliament but had a popular radio show on NET, emulating to some extent Manwel Cuschieri on One, has also shown interest in the leadership post. But his chances of garnering support for the post appear to be slim.  Other candidates have not shown keen interest in the post and Roberta Metsola has decided to hang on to her MEP seat.