Bernard Grech has told fellow MPs that he is prepared to do whatever is “best for the party and the country” as PN strategists pin their hopes on Roberta Metsola eventually taking over the leadership of the struggling party.

Sources told Times of Malta that Grech could be mulling his future as leader of the PN which has failed to make inroads into Labour’s unassailable lead. But he is well aware that his exit could leave the party in the doldrums.

A “peaceful, coordinated and united” ap­proval of a new leadership contender would be ideal, insiders said, with the party determined to avoid another election which it fears could descend into a “fatal bloodbath”.

All eyes are on Roberta Metsola assuming the leadership, but the European Parliament president remains non-committal.

The party is concluding its annual General Council meeting today at its headquarters in Pietà.

Factions continue to split the PN, while last weekend’s Malta Today poll, which indicated non-voters have now exceeded PN voters, has sent shivers among the party faithful who fear that at this rate, Labour could possibly head towards an unprecedented two-thirds majority in parliament.

“Grech acknowledges his work has failed to make inroads into Labour’s powerful majority, and has indicated he has no intention of putting up a fight so that he can remain at the top. However, if he chooses to leave, he wants to see the exit managed well, without inflicting any harm to the party,” one source said.

Grech acknowledges his work has failed to make inroads into Labour’s powerful majority, and has no intention of putting up a fight [to] remain at the top- party source

Some party veterans are also of the opinion that Grech should leave the stage, despite having been reconfirmed as leader last May after the election defeat, but are wary of potential replacements and want a smooth transition.

In one of their routine bi-weekly parliamentary group meetings last Wednesday, Grech is understood to have told his MPs he is aware some factions within the party would prefer that he steps down now, adding that he would make a decision he feels is “best for the party and the country”.

Sources said Wednesday’s meeting included lengthy discussions on the upcoming EU elections and the future of the party, but none of the MPs contested or confronted Grech, nor did anyone push him to resign.

Though unlikely, it is not excluded that Grech would leave the post before the European Parliament elections in May 2024, with the appointment of an interim leader possibly paving the way for Metsola.

Metsola in the wings

EP president Roberta Metsola. Photo: European ParliamentEP president Roberta Metsola. Photo: European Parliament

Sources said party officials have informally asked Metsola to run for the party leadership once her time as EU parliament president is up next year, believing she would be PN’s best bet at winning the next general election.

But the 44-year-old president of the EU parliament has so far kept her options open, fomenting more uncertainty within the PN.

Metsola has been touted as a potential replacement for European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, when her term expires, though this is a remote possibility. Even if Metsola fails to land the EU’s top post, she could either continue serving as an MEP or else could be earmarked for another top EU position.

Sources said it was almost a certainty that she would become the next PN leader if she shows an interest in the post since she enjoys broad support from all party factions, including that of ousted former leader Adrian Delia. “If Roberta gives a strong signal, there will be no other contender. All potential contestants would team up behind her,” said one veteran source.

Three other potential contenders

Alex Borg, Darren Carabott and Mark Anthony Sammut Photos: PN/FacebookAlex Borg, Darren Carabott and Mark Anthony Sammut Photos: PN/Facebook

Should she express no interest, three of the newest and youngest MPs are being touted for the party leadership – Alex Borg, Mark Anthony Sammut and Darren Carabott, who were elected to parliament for the first time last year.

Sources say the more traditionalist faction favours Sammut, while the younger, more liberal faction is for Carabott. But another faction seems to be supporting Gozitan MP Alex Borg as a leader, especially after his excellent performance at the 2022 general election.

Contacted for a reaction, Borg said he does not exclude a future leadership bid, but said it is “definitely not for the time being”. “As long as Bernard Grech is at the helm, I support him and am not interested in the role,” he told Times of Malta.

Both Carabott and Sammut dismissed the rumours about a looming change in leadership as pure speculation and said the party has a leader who was confirmed just a few months ago. However, both Carabott and Sammut did not exclude a leadership bid in future but were very clear they are not interested in it right now and are not thinking about it. Carabott confirmed he was aware of rumours that he could be a potential contender but Sammut said the mention of his name is “news” to him.

One source said that if the three MPs had to contest for the post, the party machine would likely push Sammut.

Lawyer and MP Joe Giglio, sometimes touted as a possible successor, has signalled he is not interested in the post. Contacted for comment, Giglio said the priority right now should be for the party to continue to strengthen, organise and renew itself, and not discuss a new leader.

Whatever the selection, PN insiders say the party cannot afford further cracks and divisions seeping outside the party structures, and another leadership race would risk turning into a “bloodbath” that could permanently destroy the party.

A sense of ‘lethargy’

Sources said that following last year’s 39,500-vote defeat in the election, a “general sense of lethargy” took over the party, mostly after several top officials resigned in the span of a few months. Others complained of a lack of direction from the party’s administration and said they feel demotivated and uninspired to work within it.

The majority of PN officials and supporters seem to be putting all their faith in Metsola, believing she could stand a chance at winning the next general election, despite the deficit.

“People are starting to tell us that Labour’s time is soon up. They’re beginning to feel annoyed by the government’s arrogance, and Metsola could come just in time to win the next election for PN,” one source said.

“But we do understand that she risks losing it all as well,” said another source.

But another source said they do not see why the PN should consider Grech’s chapter closed as yet. They added that Metsola’s powerful position in the EU could possibly propel the PN to regain the third seat in next year’s EU election, in which case Grech would have brought a significant victory to the party.

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