PN's vetting of candidates 'not mandatory'

The PN's Administrative Council is not bound by the statute to pass on candidates to its vetting committee

PN secretary-general Clyde Puli said he is carrying out his own scouting
PN secretary-general Clyde Puli said he is carrying out his own scouting

The Nationalist Party’s latest batch of MEP candidates, Frank Psaila and Michael Briguglio, have been selected without the oversight of the party’s ‘electoral’ commission, a move that has been met with consternation by various MPs.

But a party spokesperson insisted yesterday that the Administrative Council was not bound by the party statute to present any candidates to the selection commission, for vetting.

Adrian Delia’s election to the PN brought with it its own timbre of change, elegantly encapsulated by his ‘new way’ slogan. But the alleged scuttling of the party’s own selection committee for party candidates left MPs smarting, some claiming this went against the party statute.

“I’m not aware of any discussion in the executive commission about not using the selection committee to vet candidates,” said one MP. “But if this needs a change to the statute, then it must be decided by the General Council. It’s not about whether these candidates are suitable: it’s a question of rules being followed.”

The PN’s commission for the selection of candidates is established by the party statute, and the committee stays in office for five years after its appointment by the PN’s Administrative Council. The commission is responsible for vetting prospective candidates referred to it by the administrative council. But ultimately, candidates are approved by the PN executive.

PN secretary-general Clyde Puli stunned MPs when he told The Malta Independent that he was scouting party candidates himself, so that they are then approved by the party’s executive.

“The commission is not constituted right now, but it has always been the party executive that approved the candidates. The commission was appointed under the previous leadership... before that it was always the administrative council to present the candidates to the party’s executive.”

Puli said it was he who was “doing the scouting” but that it would be the party’s executive to formally approve the candidates.

A party spokesperson disagreed with this newspaper that the commission had been scuttled, arguing that the commission could yet be asked to vet candidates.

“Salvu Mallia’s candidature was approved by the party leadership without any vetting from the commission in 2017,” the spokesperson said, offering a strict interpretation of the statute.

“The administrative council is not bound by the statute to refer the candidates to the selection commission. Indeed, the statute establishes the commission and its purpose is to present an ‘appreciation’ of the candidate, but ultimately the decision to approve the candidates always rests with the executive.”

In his interview, Puli confirmed that the party will once again be adopting the strategy where the PN’s administrative council refers candidates to the executive.

Puli has confirmed that candidates like Frank Psaila and Michael Briguglio, the former Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson, have accepted an invitation to run for MEP. While their endorsement is already clear in the public eye, Puli said other candidates like EU veteran Peter Agius – today spokesperson for European Parliament president Antonio Tajani – and family lawyer Bernard Grech, are yet to confirm their interest.