Rebel Nationalist Party MPs have ditched a plan which would have seen Adrian Delia removed from his constitutional role as Opposition leader despite remaining at the helm of the party, Times of Malta has learnt.

“The dual leadership model is no longer on the cards because, at this point, the risk that such a move would result in the PN disbanding is too big to take,” one of the 17 dissenting MPs said.

The move had been actively considered in the aftermath of a late-night parliamentary group meeting held at the start of this month during which Dr Delia had been urged to consider his position in the wake of a disastrous opinion poll published by MaltaToday.

His removal as Opposition leader was possible as the Constitution states that whoever occupies this position could be removed by the President in case he or she no longer enjoyed the support of the majority of MPs.

However, despite mounting speculation that efforts were under way by the rebel MPs to invoke this proviso for the first time ever in post-Independence political history, it did not materialise.

The risk that such move would result in the PN disbanding is too big to take

Meanwhile, a defiant Dr Delia refused to resign despite the resignation of Clyde Puli as secretary general, Robert Arrigo as deputy leader for party affairs and Kristy Debono as president of the PN general council.

Three weeks down the line, the focus is on the PN statute reform being piloted by party stalwart Louis Galea. Originally meant to be approved by the end of last month, these changes are now planned to be in place by the end of March.

Party sources said some of the major changes that could be in the pipeline included the abolition of the post of secretary-general in favour of the creation of various vice presidents, each focusing on specific aspects.

However, the final draft of the changes is still being debated in a series of assemblies within the general council, which is the highest party organ formed by about 1,500 councillors.

The council is being presided over by interim president Ċensu Galea, while Francis Zammit Dimech has been appointed as interim secretary general.

As for the way forward, a dissenting MP who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that they would first wait for the outcome of this reform.

“Our objective is to ensure that whoever will occupy the new party administration posts will be on board with us,” he said.

12 of the PN MPs who had backed a letter calling for Adrian Delia to step aside.12 of the PN MPs who had backed a letter calling for Adrian Delia to step aside.

Last July, Dr Delia survived a confidence vote within the general council where he won 68 per cent of support. The move had been triggered by the party’s disastrous showing in the European and council elections.

The PN leadership was again back under the spotlight a few weeks ago, once the dust of the political crisis which gripped Joseph Muscat’s government started to settle.

Once again, Dr Delia, managed to weather the storm stirred by the parliamentary group.

At this point in time, the widespread belief within the dissenting MPs is that any further head-on attempts to change the leadership might cause further collateral damage, which could dent the chances of reuniting the party behind a different leader.

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