[ANALYSIS] Five reasons why Adrian Delia has declared ‘war on traitors’

An extensive analysis into five of the possible reasons why Adrian Delia has declared 'war on traitors' four months before crucial mid-term elections which may well determine whether he stays on as leader or not 

Delia’s declaration of war may well remain unanswered, perpetuating his frustration at fighting a battle with ghosts
Delia’s declaration of war may well remain unanswered, perpetuating his frustration at fighting a battle with ghosts

Political wisdom normally dictates that leaders project unity rather than disunity, fully knowing that divided parties are shunned by the electorate.

So why is Adrian Delia calling out “traitors” four months before crucial mid-term elections which may well determine whether he stays on as leader or not?

Alfred Sant’s dramatic showdown with Dom Mintoff in 1998 and Lawrence Gonzi’s troubles with backbenchers before 2013 stand out as historical lessons on the fatal consequences of disunity on political parties. While Delia’s present plight – which has seen him subjected to the humiliation of having details of his family life divulged on social media – is unprecedented, his aggressive reaction suggests that he is fighting a battle for his own survival rather than one meant to revive his party’s declining fortunes.

1. Delia is exasperated and has had enough

After being thwarted by his own parliamentary group when he tried to sack former leader Simon Busuttil in the wake of the publication of the Egrant inquiry, Delia tried his best at restoring a semblance of party unity by taking a firm stance on the 17 Black revelations.

This approach seemed to have paid off with PN voters, among which trust in Delia had shot up from 45% to 60% according to MaltaToday’s December poll. But after the latest calls for his resignation, not only by the likes of Occupy Justice but also by unnamed high-ranking party representatives in comments made to the media, he seems to have lost hope in reconciliation and has embarked on the war path.

Recent events may have embittered Delia who may be feeling hurt by the attempt to use his personal misfortunes to put his leadership in question. Moreover, he has probably come to the conclusion that those who did not accept him from the moment he was elected leader by party members will never do so. Short of resigning, the only option left for him is to fight to win. Yet in doing so, Delia risks scorching the earth beneath him, losing more internal support among those who may have been willing to give him a chance but are now appalled by his confrontational approach.

2. Delia thinks the time has come for him to impose himself on the party

With the party in a perpetual state of unrest, Delia may have come to the conclusion that unity can only be imposed with a heavy hand.
Delia may be aware that voters shun divided parties like his and has therefore decided to ride roughshod on opponents. Delia insists that “whoever is not behind me should not be in the party.”

In so doing he is forgetting that in a democracy the party is considered to be greater than its leader. Delia may be forgetting that the PN is by its very nature a big-tent party and that strongmen politicians are anathema in Christian democratic parties. Even under Eddie Fenech Adami, whose solid leadership was never internally questioned, people with very different mentalities co-existed with each other and unity was achieved through a common sense of purpose. Delia has so far failed in giving a common sense of purpose which can unite the party’s different factions and schools of thought.

The fear that Delia will unleash an army of sycophants to impose his authority may well backfire among the party’s middle ground which had its concerns on Delia’s leadership but was willing to give him a chance.

3. Delia believes that recent events have strengthened him

Delia may well be banking on the revulsion felt by many, including floaters and some Labour supporters, at the invasion of his privacy during the Christmas festivities.

Delia may also be under the impression that while his parliamentary group remains hostile he has gained more sympathy among PN members and voters. Yet he seems to underestimate the concern among those who cringe at the prospect of voting for someone tainted by domestic violence allegations. He also seems to forget that sympathy does not necessarily translate in political support for the Nationalist Party.

In fact, despite receiving kudos from government poster boys like advisor Robert Musumeci, Delia has so far made no political inroads among Labour voters. Moreover, Delia’s greatest problem is that a substantial segment of PN voters does not trust him and would not vote for him. If he fails to recover this category he can’t aspire to close the gap with Labour, let alone aspire to win.

The data leak seems to go beyond his personal family affairs and has also exposed his questionable financial dealings with an insurance company on behalf of the party, to scrutiny. The fact that he has been exposed to a data leak raises questions on his suitability as party leader. For what if material taken from this data leak crops up on the eve of a general election?

4. Delia wants his enemies to come out in the open

Delia wants a showdown and is irritated by the fact that none of his internal adversaries in the parliamentary group have so far came out in the open to ask for his resignation. Some may even fear that his intention is to bring them out in the open to commence a purge.

Yet Delia’s declaration of war may well remain unanswered, perpetuating his frustration at fighting a battle with ghosts. Moreover the prospect of an impending day of reckoning may well backfire on Delia who may see all those threatened by a purge uniting against him.

Delia had already over-reached himself in summer when he asked for Simon Busuttil’s resignation from the parliamentary group. While nobody protested against his decision to remove Busuttil from good governance spokesperson, kicking out Busuttil from the parliamentary group was a step too far even for those who were not particularly close to the former PN leader.

Delia may also see this as an occasion to once again present himself as the anti-establishment candidate fighting an old guard which was never ready to give him a chance. But while this tactic worked well for Jeremy Corbyn among Labour voters in the UK and Donald Trump among republicans in the USA, this may be a leap in the dark in the Maltese context.

Moreover the prospect of a protracted civil war in the main opposition party risks strengthening Joseph Muscat’s Labour further.

5. Delia wants to pin the blame of defeat on his enemies

Delia may well have realised that his party is condemned to a humiliating defeat in next May’s local and European elections.

Delia also knows that his enemies may well be engaging in Chinese torture, by further weakening him before these elections only to deliver the final blow after the results are out. By highlighting disunity in his own party and turning against his internal enemies, Delia is pre-empting them bringing the inevitable showdown ahead before next May’s election.

One can already imagine Delia saying: “I blame this horrendous result on the clique which has prevented me from working and which has done everything to destroy my credibility.”