PN MPs clash over Adrian Delia’s future

The Nationalist Party’s internal conflict was on full show on TVM’s Xtra Sajf as Ivan J. Bartolo and Edwin Vassallo clashed on whether Adrian Delia should resign or stay on as party leader

PN MPs Ivan J. Bartolo and Edwin Vassallo: the anti- and pro-Delia camps
PN MPs Ivan J. Bartolo and Edwin Vassallo: the anti- and pro-Delia camps

Edwin Vassallo has warned that attempts to ignore the Nationalist Party’s statute and remove Adrian Delia contradict the message in favour of the rule of law.

“We say that we respect the rule of law and the country’s constitution, and then we ignore the rule of law in the party,” he said on TVM’s Xtra Sajf.

Vassallo brushed aside survey results, arguing that the PN had been losing surveys since the times of Eddie Fenech Adami, and had also performed badly under Lawrence Gonzi and Simon Busuttil, without any of those leaders being asked to resign. 

But the PN’s internal conflict was on full show as PN MP Ivan J. Bartolo insisted that Delia’s leadership style has not worked and promised reforms never materialised.

“I was one of those who elected Adrian Delia. I went to Valletta and encouraged everyone to vote for him, because I believed that Adrian Delia would be that person who would reform the Nationalist Party, who would unite the Nationalist electorate, and who would implement the many reforms that are needed,” Bartolo said.

Vassallo was one of the 11 MPs who voted in favour of Delia when a vote of confidence was taken in the PN parliamentary group, while Bartolo was one of the 19 who voted against the leader.

Bartolo dismissed the idea that Delia had been hindered in his work by members within the party, arguing that obstacles and problems were always to be expected. It is a leader’s job to find a way to make things work in spite of the potholes in their path, he added.

“The truth is that we elected a leader to win elections and the first fact, as all the surveys are showing, is that this leader is not one who can lead the party to an electoral victory,” Bartolo said.

However, Vassallo insisted that the last thing the country needed at the moment was for there to be disquiet among the Opposition, while the real criminals go under the radar.

“I believe that all these accusation that are being levied against him are rumours and untrue, and right now, the last thing we need in the party and in the country is to have this earthquake in the party,” he said.

Bartolo said that his actions, and those of other PN rebels, are being done for the sake of the country and its future. 

“The country is telling the Nationalist Party that, in your current format, you are not electable,” he said.

Bartolo said the country needed a new direction that is far removed from the corruption scandals that are currently engulfing it. He argued that, having been entrusted with a parliamentary seat by the electorate, his duty is to see how to lead the nation towards that goal, declaring in no uncertain terms, that this cannot be done with Delia at the helm. 

“Adrian Delia was not able to create a vision. He was not able to craft a strategy, he was not able to attract people to him to create this vision and strategy, and he ended up falling back to the excuse of blaming others who he said were not letting him work,” Bartolo said.

Asked by Balzan whether the rebel faction’s proposed candidate for Opposition leader, Therese Comodini Cachia, could hold her own against Prime Minister Robert Abela, Bartolo expressed his certainty that she would.

“Therese Comodini Cachia is a determined person. She is not afraid to take decisions. Before she talks she listens to everyone, and she does not take decisions without involving everyone. She gives you the empowerment but then she makes you accountable. That is management, that is leadership,” he said.

He also pointed out that the rebel faction within the PN is only proposing Comodini Cachia as Opposition Leader, and not as party leader, insisting that the latter role can only be filled by someone elected by the party members.

Vassallo, however, expressed his belief that the PN can still win with Delia as its leader.

“I still believe that this could be the moment that we rise from these humiliating depths we are in, join together, and win,” he said.

Vassallo said that he too would support Comodini Cachia if she were elected PN leader but stressed that this would have to be done properly. 

“I will respect the choice of the party members but if everyone had acted like me, we would be on the steps of Castille to win the government right now, because order follows when you have the rule of law – the statute – and you observe it,” Vassallo said.