Updated 8.20pm - Added PL reaction
Adrian Delia and Simon Busuttil have agreed to a truce, in an attempt to heal a growing rift between two factions inside the Nationalist Party.
The deal will see party leader Dr Delia refrain from pushing for his predecessor’s expulsion from the PN parliamentary group – a request he first made on July 22, hours after the Egrant inquiry conclusions were published.
Dr Busuttil will continue to serve as a PN MP, albeit as a backbencher, with Dr Delia having insisted that his decision to strip him of his good governance portfolio was non-negotiable.
In a statement issued on Monday evening, the PN said that the party’s administrative council would be confirming the decision to not force Dr Busuttil out of the party.
The statement went on to note that a number of other magisterial inquiries into allegations of impropriety by government officials – principally Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi - were still underway and that it was important that everyone within the PN continued the fight against corruption “together”.
In a separate statement issued minutes later, Dr Busuttil welcomed the announced truce.
“I believe the Opposition must be united against its only political adversary, which is this current government,” he said.
The deal, which party sources said was brokered by a trio made up of party stalwarts Lawrence Gonzi, Tonio Borg and Francis Zammit Dimech, is an attempt to piece back together a party which was fractured by fallout from the Egrant inquiry.
Dr Delia had initially said his predecessor had to “assume political responsibility” for having made the Egrant allegations a cornerstone of the PN’s 2017 general election campaign.
At a hastily-called press conference held on July 22, Dr Delia announced that he had sacked Dr Busuttil from his shadow cabinet and asked him to suspend himself from the party’s parliamentary group.
That prompted a stinging reply from the former leader, who said he saw no reason to comply and accused his party leader of “siding with Joseph Muscat”.
Within days, the party was clearly split in two: while the PN’s administrative council unanimously endorsed Dr Delia’s position, a group of disgruntled MPs including former deputy leaders Mario de Marco and Beppe Fenech Adami were backing Dr Busuttil on social media.
'Delia is now complicit in Egrant lie' - PL
The Labour Party reacted by saying that Dr Delia had caved in to Dr Busuttil and “clearly shown that after almost a year in charge, he does not have the authority to lead the Nationalist Party.”
In so doing, the PL said, Dr Delia had now made himself complicit in “the Egrant lie” and would be held to account over it, despite his repeated assertions that the PN “would not be credible” unless Dr Busuttil stepped aside.