PN leader Adrian Delia in emergency meetings with individual MPs

Rebel MPs opposed to Adrian Delia's leadership squared off with his supporters at a rowdy PN executive committee on Thursday night. PN parliamentary group meeting expected this afternoon

Adrian Delia faces a revolt in his parliamentary group
Adrian Delia faces a revolt in his parliamentary group

In a frantic bid to stymie internal dissent, Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has been holding individual meetings with members of his parliamentary group, MaltaToday has learnt.

The PN leader is facing stern opposition within the parliamentary group as MPs are seriously considering forcing a vote of no confidence in him. If it comes to this and Delia loses the support of a majority of PN MPs, he risks being replaced as Opposition leader.

The divisions within the PN parliamentary group became more apparent on Thursday night during a rowdy meeting of the PN executive. Delia told executive members that he could not attend Sunday's manifestation in Valletta that demanded justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, because of "family commitments".

Delia had first confirmed his presence in the demonstration, only to pull out at the eleventh hour after it became apparent that PN MPs were not ready to walk next to him. Delia had been at the centre of criticism on Caruana Galizia's blog during the summer months and had also filed five libel suits against the journalist.

PN deputy leader Mario de Marco told executive members the PN was becoming irrelevant and was leaving the protests in the wake of Caruana Galizia's murder to other groups.

In what was a clear dig at Delia, the other deputy leader, Beppe Fenech Adami said the party could not go as far as it should because "of the current situation".

Fenech Adami said "everyone had to shoulder responsibililty", in another reference to Delia, who stood up in Parliament calling on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to shoulder political responsibility for the murder.

 Some within the party have argued that Delia, who had dismissed Caruana Galizia as "an insignificant blogger (bicca blogger)", does not have the moral authority to lead the charges against Muscat in the wake of the murder. Caruana Galizia and MaltaToday had reported during the summer months on Delia's past work as a lawyer for Maltese clients who owned a London property used for prostitution. The stories also exposed that Delia had an offshore account, which he later said was held on behalf of his clients.

MaltaToday is informed that following Fenech Adami's statement MPs Kristy Debono and Herman Schiavone defended Delia and called for unity.

Former MP Jean Pierre Debono, who gave up his seat in Parliament to make it possible for Delia to get his, accused the rebel MPs of being "hypocrites" as he screamed at the dissenters. He also accused them of leaking stories to MaltaToday.

Debono was backed by Sliema councillor Pierre Portelli and entrepreneur Andre Grech.

The executive meeting dragged on late into the night but some MPs left early, including Claudette Buttigieg, Jason Azzopardi and Claudio Grech.

Former PN leader Simon Busuttil was also present.

The PN parliamentary group is expected to meet this afternoon and MPs are expected to ask Delia if he will attend next Sunday's manifestation in Sliema.

It remains unclear whether rebel MPs will forge ahead with plans to call a vote of no confidence in Delia.