PN grandee Louis Galea mulled as caretaker leader after 2019 elections

Nationalist MPs have mulled a transitionary leadership under the helm of former PN minister Louis Galea to secure a new leader in 2022

Former PN minister Louis Galea, 70, remains highly respected within the PN
Former PN minister Louis Galea, 70, remains highly respected within the PN

The former Nationalist minister and party grandee Louis Galea is being eyed by some MPs as a possible caretaker if Adrian Delia quits. They hope that this would serve to groom the next leader with many stating that Claudio Grech hits all the right buttons.

Galea, a former education minister with roots in the party’s social turn in the late 1970s, was said to have been “amenable” – as described by one senior MP – to the prospect of taking the PN to the general elections should the European election results in 2019 spell the end of Delia as PN leader.

At 70, the former member of the European Court of Auditors and a former speaker retains a marginal position on the PN’s internal committee on discipline, but enjoys respect in the party.

“Opening the party’s leadership election to an election from its paid-up members has been Simon Busuttil’s greatest mistake,” said one senior MP, “because this is how we have Adrian Delia today.”

Delia’s ailing polls are setting up for a significant defeat in next year’s European elections, but confirmed reports of his marital separation and messages between his allies and wife Nickie Vella de Fremeaux have portrayed a troubled party leader with no chance of winning.

“Louis Galea could be the only person to take on the party after 2019, lead it to the elections in 2022, and then have the PN hold an election for the new leader. I mean, which madman wants to take the helm after another trashing?”

Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo was quite forthcoming on the matter, insisting he had nothing to hide and could be quoted.

“I am sick and tired of all this gossip and scaremongering,” he said. “Our leader was elected democratically and yet, people within and outside the party are still trying to sabotage his leadership.”

Vassallo said the news of Delia’s marital issues should not lead to his resignation or removal, since every family, business, company and organisation faced problems occasionally.

“Let us not forget that Adrian Delia was elected leader by the party’s members, in a first-ever for Malta,” he said. “That in itself was the strongest due diligence exercise the party could have carried out.”

Another two MPs, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed rumours of Galea being mentioned as an interim leader.

“There is no concerted effort by any group of MPs to get Delia to resign. News of the serious difficulties in Adrian’s marriage have not pushed anyone to call for his resignation. But the general feeling is defeatist.  Although some may be using this development to continue trying to highlight any perceived shortcoming in the leadership,” one MP, supportive of Delia, said.

Another MP would not confirm if any names for Delia’s possible successor had been discussed within the party, but he said that he “like any true Nationalist” would be open to considering any candidate for leader, as long as they represented the party’s values and core principles.

Claudio Grech dismisses leadership bid...

Yesterday afternoon, Nationalist MP Claudio Grech issued a statement on his social media profile quelling suggestions he could be vying for the PN’s leadership.

In a Facebook post, Grech, 44, paid tribute to Delia, whose political life has been rattled by press reports on a request for separation by his wife Nickie Vella de Fremeaux.

“The last thing the PN needs now is speculation about its leadership. The PN leader is Adrian Delia, who was elected in the most open and representative election of all time in the history of Maltese political parties. It is every MP’s duty to be part of the integral work of the party,” Grech said on Facebook.

“While I appreciate all those who believe in me, my decision on this matter was taken just over a year ago and I gave my reason,” Grech said of his decision not to pursue the leadership contest of 2017. “As I said back then, my priority in this legislature is to serve as the voice of my constituents, and to strengthen the PN’s policy framework to help the party evolve into an alternative government.”

“As any party leader I’ve had the privilege to work with can confirm, even the current leadership knows of my full contribution to work towards this aim, which I intend doing in full serenity right to my last day in politics,” Grech said.

Grech is the PN’s spokesperson for the family and social policy, children and the unborn child, and was formerly an aide to the PN minister Austin Gatt before running for election in 2013.

… but his aides say otherwise

But aides to the Nationalist MP told MaltaToday that the only hurdle for Grech to take on the leadership challenge was a personal one.

“He knows that he could unite Nationalists and offer a new challenge to Muscat in the next European elections, but he is seriously concerned about how this would impact his family,” they said.

Grech remains one of the more eloquent and level-headed speakers within the PN parliamentary group.

His political career was moulded in the shadow of Austin Gatt, one of the more controversial PN ministers but also a formidable PN secretary general. Though a fervent pro-lifer and conservative, Grech is widely respected by the business community.

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