The PN leadership election could stretch into October if multiple candidates are involved, according to party general secretary Francis Zammit Dimech. 

On Tuesday evening the Nationalist Party’s executive committee agreed that the due diligence to be conducted on the candidates for the top post should take up to a maximum of six weeks.

Zammit Dimech said the timeframes would depend largely on the number of people who decide to contest the leadership race. 

“It depends if there are two, three or maybe even more candidates. It also depends on what sort of business interests these people have – so the process could end up taking the full six weeks or could be shorter,” Zammit Dimech said.

He said that if the process took the full month and a half, then that would see the final election not held until around the first half of October. 

This would mean that the party’s leadership crisis might not be resolved by the time parliament reconvenes after the summer recess on October 5. 

Leadership crisis might not be resolved by the time parliament reconvenes

It could also mean that Adrian Delia might still be at the helm of the party for the PN’s annual Independence Day celebrations next month – one of the biggest events on the PN’s political calendar.

Sources present for Tuesday evening’s party meeting told Times of Malta that a proposal to speed up the due diligence on the leadership contenders was roundly shot down. 

The sources said that during the meeting, it was suggested that the process be concluded within a fortnight to get the election done before the end of summer. 

This fast-tracking idea was particularly opposed by the embattled Delia and his deputy Robert Arrigo, who argued that the electoral process should not be fiddled with.

Last week, the PN general council voted to hold a fresh leadership contest.

The council’s decision set in motion a complex procedure, with the first step being a call by the party electoral commission for an expression of interest by potential leadership candidates.

Prospective candidates have until Monday to come forward.

While Delia was quick to announce that he would be contesting to keep his post, it is as yet unclear who he will be running against. 

Party insiders said talks between a group of rebel MPs who forced the leadership race had been held this week to agree on a “unity candidate” to take on Delia.

Newcomer Bernard Grech said on Thursday he will be contesting the post. MP Therese Comodini Cachia and MEP Roberta Metsola , who had considered putting their name in the hat, have now ruled themselves out.

Among the MPs’ concerns, the sources said, was identifying a candidate with the best chances of beating Delia.  

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