Updated | [WATCH] Adrian Delia will stay on as PN leader as he wins confidence vote

Earlier, the PN leader silenced councillors who booed his detractor in an opening speech

Nationalist Party councillors and members celebrate Delia as confidence vote result solidifies his leadership role
Nationalist Party councillors and members celebrate Delia as confidence vote result solidifies his leadership role
Adrian Delia will stay on as PN leader

Adrian Delia has won a confidence motion by 67.75% of the vote, meaning two-thirds of the vote. 32.5% voted Delia to leave.

It’s been a long journey but Delia can finally rest easy as this vote has solidified his leadership role. He is set to lead the Opposition for the next three years. The voting saw a 92% turnout, according to the head of the PN’s Electoral Commission, Francis Zammit Dimech. He said that such a massive turnout was a sign of agreement between the PN councillors.

"The turnout to this vote shows that the PN is still very much alive. I will, however, take into consideration those number of councillors who voted no. I want to assure you that we won't have a majority or minority within the party but we will have a solid and united party," Delia said, following the results. 

On Saturday, the councillors had to answer one question via their vote: do you want Adrian Delia to keep leading the party until the next general election?

Delia said that the councillors had expressed their love for the party via their vote and that he believes that those who voted yes agreed that he should work harder and better for the party. 

"I will not interpret this vote as a sign that nothing needs changing. On the contrary, I know you're expecting me to work hard to reform this party. I assure you that I will do this to the best of my ability, stronger than before," he said, adding that he respected those who didn't have confidence in him and that they too wanted a credible party. 

He warned however that these unhappy few should work together within the party and not attack the party. "The people out there are expecting us to renew this party so that we can provide them with a democratic tool. If we work together, we can get there. Let's give this party back to the people," he said, adding that he will change what needs changing but he needed the help of everyone within the party.

Calls for Delia's resignation first intensified when the PN was devastated at the last local council and European elections in an unprecedented result—Labour won three of the five European Parliament seats and won typical PN stronghold localities Valletta, Siggiewi, and Mosta.

However, the conservative party seemed to have been split into two factions way before that—MPs who opposed his leadership simply became more vocal, including on social media, after the MEP election results.

Crunch time for the PN as Delia faces confidence vote

Delia had backed down from his initial stand against holding a vote of no confidence and called an extraordinary general council to put his leadership to the test. By doing so, Delia outsmarted his rivals who collected 200 signatures calling for a special meeting of the general council to vote on a motion of no confidence in the leader.

A counter-petition expressing support for the embattled leader and calling for action to be taken against party dissenters was also presented to the party with more than 500 signatures.

The PN general council started at 10am on Saturday and voting closed at 6pm. The result was announced by Francis Zammit Dimech.

More than 1,400 councillors were eligible to vote.

Pre-vote speeches

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia was greeted with a standing ovation at PN headquarters where voting is underway to determine his future at the helm of the party.

Delia gave a short but impassioned speech at the start of the extraordinary general council ahead of a confidence vote he called in the wake of May's disastrous election results.

PN councillors have until 6pm to vote whether they want Adrian Delia to continue leading the party until the next general election
PN councillors have until 6pm to vote whether they want Adrian Delia to continue leading the party until the next general election

Two short speeches from Delia supporter, Justin Schembri, and one of the proponents of a vote to remove the leader, Ivan Bartolo, preceded Delia's address. The councillors gathered inside the main hall were overwhelmingly sympathetic to the PN leader and at one point, Delia stood up to silence those who booed when Bartolo took the stage.

Delia pulled out a speech he made 33 years ago when he had addressed the PN general conference as a Birkirkara representative for the MZPN, the PN’s youth group. It was a message intended to silence critics who accuse him of only becoming interested in the PN after the 2017 general election defeat.

“Whoever thinks that I started operating within the Nationalist Party two years ago should know that I was born in the Nationalist Party, I grew within the PN, I worked for the PN and now am leading the PN and will continue to commit all my energies to this party until the day I die,” Delia said.

The question posed to party members is: Do you want Adrian Delia to lead the PN until the next general election?

Voting started at 10am and will continue until 6pm. There are almost 1,500 councillors eligible to vote. Some 500 already voted on Wednesday in a special session of early voting.

“Ultimately, the question today is not whether you would say yes to Adrian Delia or not, but to say yes to the Nationalist Party, yes to the politics of hope,” Delia said, adding that the PN was a demo-christian party despite forces that were trying to pull the party to an extremity that didn’t reflect its values.

Delia invoked the memory of the PN’s previous leader and eventual Prime Minister and President Eddie Fenech Adami, saying that he would aspire to follow his footsteps.

“Fenech Adami didn’t give up when they attacked his family and didn’t back down despite achieving a majority and still wasn’t able to govern. I will do the same... we have to decide whether the PN is 140 years old, or 140 years young,” Delia said.

Delia is rightful leader after being chosen by members - Justin Schembri

Justin Schembri, councillor and minority leader in Birkirkara, representing support for Delia, said in his speech that he wasn’t at the assembly to defend Delia but to defend the party.

“From tomorrow, we will all have to pull the same rope because we have the obligation to be a strong opposition to a government that continuously fails us,” Schembri said.

He lamented the internal struggles within the PN, perpetuated by people who were attacking personalities rather than contributing to wholesome discussions. He acknowledged the PN was riven by factions and called on councillors to respect the democratic choice of party members when they chose Delia as leader.

“Since we’re all upholding democratic principles, otherwise we wouldn’t be here for a vote, then we should all agree that Delia is the rightful leader,” Schembri said.

After the vote, 'we either back him or back off' - Ivan Bartolo

Former PN candidate Ivan Bartolo, who has been the face of the anti-Delia camp since May, took the stage after Schembri to boos from the crowd.

Delia stood up from the front row seat and urged anyone who did not want to listen to leave the premises.

“In the Nationalist Party, we never made anyone our saviour or our king. In 2017, I voted with pleasure for Adrian Delia but that doesn’t mean that since then I have had to agree with everything he says. If I don’t agree, I have a right to say so,” Bartolo said, adding that people around the leader should not be deferential especially if they were being led to disaster and that these same people should not fear challenging the status quo.

Bartolo reminded the party members that ultimately the party leader was not going to become Prime Minister via them but through the electorate.

“There are no factions: the country comes first and the PN comes second. We cannot keep focusing on personal aspirations and personal pains. The motive should be the country. Don’t condemn me and call me a traitor because the strength of this party is that we are all different.

“With our decision today, we either back him up or back off,” Bartolo concluded, this time to the sound of hearty applause.

Francis Zammit Dimech, heading the PN’s Electoral Commission, said that he would announce the result of the vote at around 8pm on Saturday.