Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia on Friday insisted he had the backing of most of his party’s MPs as he prepared to face down his internal adversaries, saying “nobody tells me when to resign”.
In a recorded interview with Friday night TV show Xarabank, the embattled PN leader likened himself to a ship’s captain who refused to abandon his ship.
The analogy, which draws on parallels between the PN and a sinking ship, reflects the turmoil the party finds itself in. Some of the party’s MPs have openly called for the unpopular Dr Delia to step aside, and say that their demand is backed by a majority of the party’s MPs.
Dr Delia has dismissed that claim, insisting that he still enjoys the support of a majority of his party’s parliamentary group and repeatedly noting that he had been elected PN leader by a majority party members.
He highlighted president George Vella's remarks to journalists on Friday that there is, so far, no "concrete proof" that a majority of Opposition MPs do not trust their leader.
According to the Constitution, the president may remove an Opposition leader if they do not enjoy the backing of a majority of Opposition MPs.
Dr Delia challenged any of his detractors among his MPs to openly say that they wanted an Opposition leader – who is selected by Opposition MPs - different to the party leader, who is elected by PN members.
“I’d be very worried if there is even a single MP who thinks that the Opposition leader should be different to the leader elected by party members,” he said.
“The PN is owned by its members,” he said. “The party is led by its statute, not by surveys. If we removed a party leader for every survey, our political system would not work”.
Dr Delia’s most recent challenge to his leadership began earlier this week, after a Malta Today survey found that just 13.5 per cent of respondents said they trusted him as a political leader, with Labour leader Robert Abela a massive 49 percentage points ahead. The result is his most dismal showing in his two years as leader.
The result led to open revolt within his party, with MPs like Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia going public with their calls for change and party grandee Louis Galea, who Dr Delia had tasked with suggesting root-and-branch reform of the party, also calling for a “new leadership team”.
On Friday, Dr Delia did not exclude the possibility of further resignations.
But despite the internal chaos, the PN leader has remained steadfast in his determination to soldier on and lashed out at his internal critics, who he said felt they had a "divine right to govern".
The biggest reform the party needed to go through, he said, was one of attitude.
Dr Delia contrasted his situation to that within the Labour Party, which last month elected Robert Abela as its new leader.
“Labour MPs wanted Chris Fearne [as PL leader],” he said. “But party members chose Robert Abela. And Robert Abela was elected, because that’s what the party statute says.”