Updated Thursday 7.08am
Prominent Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has reacted angrily to remarks by Opposition leader Adrian Delia after a parliamentary group meeting where he claimed to still enjoy the confidence of the parliamentary group and that he would be at the helm for the next general election.
Dr Delia spoke on his political future when addressing the media gathered outside the party headquarters in Pieta at the end of a five-hour parliamentary group meeting during which his position was questioned in the wake of his dismal showing in the latest Malta Today survey.
“Reading the comments given to the media now by Dr Delia, I feel very upset, deceived and honestly, flabbergasted," Dr Azzopardi wrote in a comment uploaded on on Facebook. He described the parliamentary group meeting as "fraudulent".
"We had a very good, intense, serene, incisive, no holds barred parliamentary group meeting, which lasted almost five hours. Practically all MPs took part with genuine respect shown towards each other. The leader of the Party in his concluding remarks made it clear he was going to reflect on what was said to him and come back to us, keeping in mind the greater good of the Party and the country.
"I, and I’m sure all of us present were, was led to believe by Dr Delia’s seemingly sincere conclusion that he would take some days to reflect and come back with his decision.
"I’m gobsmacked reading that a mere five minutes after the conclusion of the meeting, the time to go downstairs to the waiting media, he categorically told the media that he had decided going to lead the PN to the next general elections.
"This is not on. I feel used and my good faith abused. I feel it was a complete waste of time. Sadly, I feel he had already decided and merely used the meeting as a ruse to give a verneer of credence to his pre-planned decision.
He should have been man enough to tell us that he had already decided, and that no matter what the absolute majority of the MPs told him bluntly today, he was going to simply ride roughshod over our positions and what the absolute majority of the electorate feels about him
"This is not fair. This is not just. He should have been man enough to tell us that he had already decided, and that no matter what the absolute majority of the MPs told him bluntly today, he was going to simply ride roughshod over our positions and what the absolute majority of the electorate feels about him,” Dr Azzopardi said.
According to the newspaper opinion poll, Dr Delia's level of support dropped to a historic low of 13.5 per cent of the share despite the recent political crisis which led to Joseph Muscat’s resignation as prime minister. His successor Robert Abela has a rating of at 62.5 per cent.
Asked if he had been encouraged to resign by his parliamentary group, Dr Delia told the media that all eventualities had been debated, including the best way in which the PN should react to the current circumstances. Though he acknowledged that questions had been raised about why the party failed to make any inroads despite the recent political crisis, he said he still enjoyed the MPs' support and that he would be leading the party at the next general election.
However, MPs who spoke with Times of Malta on condition of anonymity insisted that contrary to what Dr Delia said to the media, MPs had expressed huge concerns on the situation and the majority had asked him to consider his position.
Only six months ago, the PN leader survived a confidence vote within the party’s general council, its highest organ obtaining 68% of support in a vote triggered by the electoral drubbing suffered in the European and local council elections of May.
Prior to the meeting another PN MP told Times of Malta: "While Dr Delia won a vote of confidence from members last summer, we seem to have made almost no inroads. On the contrary, the support for our party seems to have waned. This is very serious."
The MP, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "Many of those who supported Dr Delia last summer are no longer backing him. The writing's on the wall. We can no longer sit still."