Nationalist Party members keen to force leader Adrian Delia out may find their path blocked by a legal interpretation of vague party rules when they discuss the PN’s future during a meeting on Tuesday night.
Rebel PN MPs who voted against Delia and then tried – and failed – to install Therese Comodini Cachia as opposition leader instead of him are understood to be keen on keeping up the pressure to force Delia out and allow the party to turn over a new leaf.
Why is Delia up against his own MPs?
Delia’s time as PN leader has been characterised by internal power struggles within the party, and tensions between himself and some of his MPs bubbled to the surface last week, when he lost a confidence vote within his parliamentary group by 19 votes to 11.
Despite losing the vote, Delia said he would remain as PN leader because he had been elected to that post by party members, not its MPs. Undeterred, MPs opposed to Delia nominated Therese Comodini Cachia to take his place as opposition leader.
But on Monday, President George Vella said that he could not strip Delia of the title because, as leader of the largest party in opposition, he continued to fulfil the function of opposition leader according to the constitution.
How can the PN replace Delia?
According to the party statute, a leadership contest is triggered if the party’s general council passes a vote of no confidence in its current leader.
However, the new statute, adopted just last month, states that such a vote of confidence can only be called two years after the last one was held.
Delia won a confidence vote exactly one year ago, securing just over 67 per cent of the general council’s vote.
Does this mean that no vote of confidence can be held?
It’s not that clear.
The new party statute also says that all rules concerning the appointment and removal of party leaders will only come into force after the next general election – including rules about when a leadership contest is triggered and the two-year period in between confidence votes.
Some in the party, particularly those who support Delia, say this means that no vote concerning the current leader can be held.
Delia’s detractors, on the other hand, say this means the two-year time restriction no longer applies and a confidence vote can be held as soon as possible.
How will this pan out?
Party insiders say the outcome will largely depend on which way the party executive is leaning.
While Delia’s lacklustre leadership has not won him many friends among PN grandees, the movement to oust him is seen among some as running contrary to the party’s best interests.
“It isn't that straightforward and it is set to be a complicated meeting,” one PN veteran who sits on the executive said.
Meanwhile, PN sources told Times of Malta that Delia is also expected to face pressure from the executive committee to call a fresh leadership race, something the sources close to Delia say he is not keen on doing.
This proposed leadership contest could either come after the confidence vote, or instead of it, a source explained.