Delia snubbed by three MPs for deputy post

The contest for the deputy leadership for parliamentary affairs is now between the former minister Edwin Vassallo, who broke ranks with the Busuttil leadership last July when he voted against gay marriage in parliament, and the man he openly defied, party whip David Agius

Marthese Portelli, Beppe Fenech Adami and Claudio Grech turned down requests to contest the PN deputy leadership elections
Marthese Portelli, Beppe Fenech Adami and Claudio Grech turned down requests to contest the PN deputy leadership elections

Three PN heavyweights have turned down Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia’s request to stand for deputy leader.

The former deputy leader for party affairs, Beppe Fenech Adami, and fellow MPs Claudio Grech and Marthese Portelli all refused to take up an offer to stand for deputy leader, MaltaToday can reveal.

The snub was yet another unwelcome episode in the unfolding drama of the PN’s leadership election aftermath, after Delia’s victory against former minister Chris Said left a divided parliamentary group.

Efforts to curry favour with the three MPs came from Delia’s closest aides, who attempted to rope in candidates for the deputy leadership who can lend weight and credibility to the PN leader.

Fenech Adami had already indicated he would not run for deputy leader after resigning together with Simon Busuttil and Mario de Marco after the June elections. Marthese Portelli, who at one point suggested she was interested in the deputy leadership post, also decided not to stand. And Claudio Grech, once touted as leadership material before deciding not to take up the prospect, also turned down the offer to run for deputy.

The contest for the deputy leadership for parliamentary affairs is now between the former minister Edwin Vassallo, who broke ranks with the Busuttil leadership last July when he voted against gay marriage in parliament, and the man he openly defied, party whip David Agius.

Vassallo had backed Chris Said for leader but said he would readily withdraw from the race for deputy leader should Said run for the post.

The other deputy leadership post for party affairs is now a contest between MPs Robert Arrigo and Toni Bezzina, a lacklustre competition that has also shocked Delia’s entourage and PN insiders.

In the last days, it was Pierre Portelli, Delia’s close aide at the PN headquarters, who was also putting pressure on David Agius not to run for the post of deputy leader in the hope that Said would run uncontested, uniting the two factions as has been the tradition for PN leadership contests.

People close to Delia wanted Said to become deputy leader in a bid to heal the rift that developed after a bruising leadership contest. However, Said was not willing to run in a contest and with  Agius refusing to drop his bid, the plan failed to materialise.

But on Friday Chris Said said he was ruling out contesting any of the deputy leadership posts in the PN. With 48% of the vote of paid-up PN members, the Gozitan MP narrowly lost the leadership to Adrian Delia last month. He said he had spoken a couple of times with the PN leader, informing him of his willingness to serve.

“I told him [Delia] that I am ready to serve in whatever capacity he thinks best I can contribute. I also told him that I was not ready to go through a third electoral campaign in less than four months,” he said, adding the campaigns had taken a toll on his family.

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