Embattled Delia insists people are done with career politicians, in final leadership debate

Adrian Delia again attacked the Nationalist Party’s administration for working against him, promising to give the party back to Nationalists

Voters want candidates who know what people’s lives are like, rather than the inner workings of a political party, said Nationalist Party (PN) leadership contender Adrian Delia, as the four candidates for party leader debated each other one last time before Saturday’s first round of voting.

Delia said that if the PN wanted to “remain detached from reality”, it should keep choosing “people with no life experience” who had lived their life in partisan politics.

He said people were interested in how someone could make a difference to their day-to-day lives, and that his career as a lawyer had prepared him for this.

Turning to the controversy surrounding his candidature, Delia once again reiterated that it was the administrative council that was working against him, stressing that the party’s consultative council and ethics committee had found no issues with his candidature.

He said that there were a number of people that had learnt, following yesterday’s meeting, that there was a small group of people that was determined to hang on to power.

“People out their want a party that is theirs, they want a new party, they want the Nationalist Party they know,” he said. “Nationalists no longer recognise the Nationalist Party”.

He added that it was particularly ironic that outgoing leader Simon Busuttil, who he referred to as a caretaker leader - a title commonly used by Labour Party media to describe Busuttil - had urged him to withdraw his candidancy, given that the party had made great attempts to open itself up and broaden its voter base.  

Replying to the question about the PN remaining relevant, Frank Portelli said it was unwise to assume the Nationalist Party would remain relevant, explaining that “when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me”. He echoed Delia in his insistence that the party needed to make a difference in people’s lives, if it wished to remain relevant.

“People have not left the PN, the PN has driven people away,” he continued, adding that the party had lost touch with the electorate’s needs.  

According to Portelli, low income workers were facing a situation that was constantly getting worse, with the minimum wage now having fallen below the average monthly rent.

Portelli criticised outgoing leader Simon Busuttil, insisting he would never have resorted to attacks on the country’s institutions. Referring to Busuttil’s recent request for Judge Antonio Mizzi to recluse himself from presiding over the Panama Papers inquiry, Portelli said that had he been leader, he would have spoken privately with Mizzi and asked him to take a step back.

“I would never resort to attacks like that in the newspaper because it undermines the country’s institutions,” said Portelli. “Half of the magistrates were probably put there by the Nationalists and the other half were put they by the Labour Party but they’re all doing they’re job.”

Questioned about what he would do in the eventuality that parliament was discussing a project by the Corinthia group if he were elected leader, owing to the fact that it constituted a possible conflict of interest, Alex Perici Calascione pointed out that he had said from the start, that if elected, he would push for there to be a code of ethics for politicians to adhere to. The code of ethics, he said, would require “anyone with a conflict of interest not to participate in that discussion”.

An example of this, he said, was the fact that he had chosen to not to attend yesterday’s meeting of the administrative council, despite having the right to do so. He said he would, from his first day as leader, work for unity and look to implement proposals from all of the candidates.

On whether he should have been aware of party officials’ wages being paid by the DB Group, and should have done more to oppose it, Perici Calascione said he was aware there was a commercial relationship between the party’s media and the DB group, but that it didn’t concern him and was not in his remit.

Perici Calascione said he would not fall into the populist trap of saying that everything from the past was bad, but said he would have the courage to make the changes which were necessary for the party and the country.

Chris Said, the only one of the four contenders who has a parliamentary seat, was asked about how he hoped to turn the PN around, when he had failed to secure Gozo for the party, with the PN losing its majority on the island.

Said insisted that Gozo had been lost because of the power of incumbency exercised by the government, which he described as having gone on a frenzy, giving away thousands of jobs with the public sector.

“There were beaches where we had one person cleaning. Today we have seven but the beach is not clean because none of them want to work,” he said.  

He said the same had happened in Malta, and that while the government abusing its position was not the only reason the PN had lost, it was one of the main ones. In fact, he pointed to the local council elections which were held during the last legislature where the PN seemed to have made some inroads among the electorate.

Said stressed that as leader he would ensure that information was gathered on what had happened before the last election. Moreover, he said he would allow for there to be scrutiny in the way jobs and transfers are signed-off on, and would see to it that a private members bill it put forward that would ensure that government activity seizes once an election is called.