Updated at 10.50pm
Nationalist Party members chanted “Delia, Delia” as their party leader entered the room.
Flush with victory following a PN confidence vote, Adrian Delia thanked those who showed confidence in him.
Almost 68 per cent of PN councillors voted for Dr Delia to remain as party leader during Saturday’s vote.
438 of the 1,380 councillors who cast their vote did not, however, and Dr Delia’s initial thoughts were for them.
“I will be doing my utmost to ensure the party does not have a majority or a minority, but one party where everyone is heard and happy,” he said.
“I will not interpret this yes vote as a sign that there’s nothing to fix,” he added.
Delia's message to sceptics
He had a clear message for those who remained sceptical of his leadership.
“You also want a strong party. Have faith in our party and play a part from the inside rather than out. Be at the forefront of change.”
As he emerged from the PN’s headquarters, Dr Delia told reporters much the same thing.
“The nos are almost more important than the yes votes,” he argued.
“We have to look inwards and do everything we can to unite the Nationalist Party.”
As he spoke, supporters sang and set off flares in the street.
Critics say result reflects PN's May results
Dr Delia’s pledge to continue winning over his sceptics chimed with a statement issued shortly after the vote by five PN members who had fronted the challenge to Dr Delia’s leadership.
The five, led by entrepreneur Ivan Bartolo, said Dr Delia still had a lot of work to do if he was to win over internal critics and convince the broader electorate that he was a worthy leader.
They noted that one in three PN councillors had not backed Dr Delia and described the confidence vote outcome as one that “reflects the result the PN achieved during European parliament and local council elections”.
Those elections, held in May, were both historic defeats for the PN.
In their statement, the five PN members indicated that they would continue to form part of the PN going forward.
“We will continue to play our part, as we have done every day during their years, for the benefit of the Nationalist Party,” they said.
Result 'must be respected' - Mark Anthony Sammut
One of those five members was Mark Anthony Sammut, who quit as the party's executive committee president last month.
He said Saturday's result must be respected by party members and found comfort in the fact that a "sizeable chunk" of the party core which the party needed to survive was disgruntled and had to be heard out.
"It's now up to Delia to earn back the confidence of these councillors and the wider electorate," he told Times of Malta late on Saturday.
The PN's partner in Opposition, the Democratic Party, took note of the confidence vote in a brief statement.
"The PD will continue to do its utmost to scrutinise the government's work and to create an honest and credible political force," it said.
Little sign of reconciliation
Dr Delia's conciliatory tone did little to placate his critics online, however.
On Facebook, an anti-Delia group called PN mill-ġdid rebbieħ shared videos of confidence votes called by two of Dr Delia's predecessors, Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi.
Both those leaders won their respective votes with well over 90 per cent of votes cast in their favour.
Radio talk show host David Thake, who quit as a PN councillor for St Paul's Bay in protest against Dr Delia, said that the vote confirmed that the party's general council had lost touch with the electorate.
"The KG [general council] has voted for the PN to remain in Opposition for the next 8 years," Mr Thake wrote.