The Nationalist Party is “on the lookout” for candidates to contest for the beleaguered Sliema council, according to sources, just in case it is dissolved.

Since the 2009 election, the party has lost four of its eight original councillors.

Two have been charged with criminal offences, one quit in protest and another crossed over to the Labour Party, albeit not at council level. All four have remained on the council as independents.

Amid infighting, the probability of dissolving the council is high although this will only happen if the it ceases to function in terms of the Local Councils Act.

The Department of Local Government is monitoring the council and attending its meetings. On the basis of this exercise, a report will be compiled and a decision taken.

If a decision is taken to dissolve the council, the matter has to be referred to the Prime Minister who will in turn write to the President recommending the council’s dissolution.

Sources said that while the political parties could call for fresh elections, the ball lies at the feet of the Department for Local Government. One of the reasons laid out in Article 22 of the Local Councils Act has to be fulfilled for the council to be dissolved.

Sources said the PN was therefore searching for possible candidates to contest an election. The new council’s term of office is due to run until 2013.

Party sources said the PN wanted to regain the majority it lost in Sliema, renowned to be a Nationalist stronghold. It gained 68 per cent of votes in the 2009 council election.

The council is meeting and is functioning so far, although the air during council meetings is described as “heavy”.

Nationalist mayor Joanna Gonzi is working with an independent councillor as her deputy, Cyrus Engerer, formerly a PN councillor and now a member and prospective general election candidate of the Labour Party.

The PN expelled former mayor Nikki Dimech over bribery charges; Sandra Camilleri resigned saying she had been “forced” to sign a vote of no confidence in Mr Dimech; Yves Bobby Cali resigned before being charged over laptop misuse.

The Labour Party lost one of its councillors, Martin Debono, who also resigned over charges related to laptop misuse. He remained on the council as an independent.

The remaining Nationalist councillors are Patrick Pace, Julian Galea and Edward Cuschieri.

The PL is represented by Marianne Aquilina and Nicolai Gauci.

The last council to be dissolved was Mtarfa in 2008. The council had been continuously disregarding the provisions of the Local Councils Act which, among others, stipulates that councils meet at least once a month. It had not met since November 2007 and a fresh election was called in May 2008.

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