‘Nationalist MPs will always rally around new leader’, says former MP Tonio Fenech

Tonio Fenech: This is not the first leadership election that has been hard-fought and in which candidates went all out to convince councillors and members to back them

Former Nationalist minister Tonio Fenech
Former Nationalist minister Tonio Fenech

The hard-fought election campaign for the PN leadership may have seemed overly antagonistic and wrought with a heavy dose of infighting for the casual observer.

But to someone who experienced previous elections at close quarters, the allegations, counter claims and fiery speeches are all part of the process and always have been.

Former Nationalist MP and minister Tonio Fenech told first leadership election that has been hard-fought and in which candidates went all out to convince councillors and members to back them.

“Candidates will do, and have always done, whatever is necessary to get their message across,” he said. “But perhaps never before has the battle between the candidates and their supporters been so much in the public eye.”

He said that social media had provided candidates – and even more so, their supporters – with a reliable platform for them to vent their anger at their opponents and their frustration at the administration.

“Many took to social media not only to support their favourite candidate but also to attack other candidates and their supporters.”

As to allegations raised against Adrian Delia, one of the candidates, Fenech said that it was only appropriate that the party investigate the claims.

Delia was found to have opened a bank account in his name at Barclays International in Jersey, which – it was claimed – was used for the transfer of money derived from prostitution in Soho, London.

“The PN did good to appoint an ad hoc Ethics Committee to investigate the claims, and that it appointed a number of respectable individuals to the committee,” Fenech said.

“The party was in fact obliged to investigate the allegations which had, on the whole, overshadowed the debate during the electoral campaign.”

He would not go into the merits of the decision of the party’s administrative council to call on Delia to reconsider his candidacy.

“Irrespective of that, the councillors and the members all had access to the full report issued by the Ethics Committee,” he said. “If they analyse that report and everything else, they should still be in a position to elect the can- didate that would make the best leader for the PN.”

Fenech played down claims that some candidates – particularly Delia – would fail to have the full backing of the party and the parliamentary group, if elected leader.

“I have no doubt that the new leader will have everyone’s backing after all is said and done, even of the party’s parliamentary group,” he said.

He recalled that in 2004, when Lawrence Gonzi and John Dalli were in the running to succeed Eddie Fenech Adami at the helm of the party, the parliamentary group was literally split down the middle in the support for the two candidates.

“Back then, most MPs had declared openly who they were supporting even if there wasn’t the evident, public infighting among candidates that there is today,” Fenech said.

“This time, it will be easier for many MPs to mend bridges since most have not publicly endorsed any of the candidates.”

He was sure, he stressed, that the party will be 100 percent behind the new leader, once this process is over.

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