The forthcoming PN leadership election has so far failed to fire the imagination of Nationalist Party members, according to those who spoke to Times of Malta, as challenger Bernard Grech remained unreachable for comment on Saturday. 

Members expressed a degree of weariness, saying it is no choice at all to select between someone who has made no inroads among the electorate in three years and another outsider with very little political acumen.

“Once again, in the space of three years, we are being asked to vote for someone we do not know against someone whom we did not know and who let us down badly,” one said.

“It’s a Hobson’s choice really,” another said. “Three years ago, we voted in an outsider whom we barely knew. He was defending himself from baggage before he was even elected. And he let us down big time. No inroads in three years.

“Now we have a new face, one we barely know and who has very little political acumen. It’s almost asking us to choose the better of two evils and my party doesn’t deserve this,” he said.

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Members all spoke on condition of anonymity.

The PN will hold a two-horse race with lawyer Grech officially throwing his name into the hat to take on PN leader Adrian Delia, after other potential contenders stepped aside to back him as the ‘unity’ candidate.

Grech, a family lawyer, was thrust into the limelight by the PN in 2018 as one of the new faces attracted by Delia. He has since been a regular face on television screens, representing the PN on some of the national broadcaster’s most popular programmes, including multiple appearances on Xarabank.

Grech was considered to be a Delia man, with the new leader putting him on a PN working group on the environment. But Grech is a complete outsider to the political scene and has never faced an election.

It is precisely this that is worrying PN members – as well as his ideology.

“As it stands, we have two men: one is a populist conservative who failed (Delia) and one an ultra-conservative who needs to prove himself to be able to balance out and reconcile with the 25 per cent liberal Nationalist voters,” another party member said.

It’s almost asking us to choose the better of two evils and my party doesn’t deserve this

“Grech [who had campaigned against divorce] might be able to do that if he ensures he pushes forward the right people and optimises on content rather than rhetoric.

“While Grech’s conservative views may go down well with the PN councillors and tesserati (members), they may not be well accepted by the PN voters in general.

Tesserati only represent 15% of the overall nationalist vote. Grech needs to be able to use all resources from now, in order to reach out to those who are already upset that the race is only between two dark-suited men.”

“It is clear that Robert Abela has lost the faith of voters. The pandemic has brought out the failings in our leaders: the prime minister, opposition leader and president have failed to be effective. If Grech can come forward with some proposals rather than commentary, he stands a good chance of breaking the trend of how the party is perceived and improve his trust rating by the end of the year.

“I am sure that any leader having the talent pool of the likes of Roberta Metsola, Therese Comodini Cachia and Mark Anthony Sammut would feel confident that an election is winnable. Delia failed to manage that, let us hope Grech can convince us otherwise,” he said.

A female party member said she was disappointed that two talented female politicians – Comodini Cachia and Metsola – were not contesting.

“It is a big shame that the party keeps sidelining its female talent which at this stage has shown to be more capable than the male pool.”

One member who supports Delia expects Grech to realise that an election at this point is worse for the party than beneficial.

“This is not a time for a leadership race when in two years or less we will have a general election. Delia was elected democratically to lead till elections by the tesserati.  It makes no sense for a new leader to take over the party when it is divided or remove him out of the selfishness of those who did not want to work with him because of their hidden agenda. Only a general election will solve the leadership problem,” he said.

“If Grech is intelligent he would drop out. He should read it. I imagine he will meet people like us for the vote. I hope he changes his mind by then.”

Multiple attempts to reach Grech for comment were unsuccessful.

When asked for comment, a spokesman for the MPs pushing to oust Delia only said that they wanted to allow the electoral process to take its course.

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