Adrian Delia addresses crowds at Dar Central yesterday. Photo: PN
There is a growing sense of confidence among Nationalist Party officials that leader Adrian Delia has passed through the storm and that internal manoeuvres to oust him will ultimately prove fruitless.
“It’s been over a week now. If these MPs really wanted to take action and believed they have the numbers, they’d have run to the President with their signatures,” a high-ranking official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Lovin Malta. “I think it was all bluff. I think the people behind this malicious campaign tried to pressure Delia to resign, using all material they could find, during a period when the headquarters was empty so that the party couldn’t reply promptly.”
Delia has faced internal pressure to resign in light of revelations that his wife Nickie Vella de Fremeaux has accused him of domestic violence as part of separation proceedings and a subsequent leak of sensitive private data to WhatsApp. However, over 80% of the PN’s sectional committees have publicly declared their trust in Delia and an estimated 400-700 people gathered at the PN’s Pietà headquarters last night in a strong show of support for the embattled leader.
Notably, those present last night included Vella de Fremeaux’s own brother Michael and three of her cousins.
The crowds at Dar Centrali last night. Photo: PN
‘Public anger at a dirty campaign’
“The turnout was good and there was a huge parking problem in fact,” an MP said. “It is an indisputable fact that Adrian Delia enjoys tremendous support among the PN grassroots, and I believe the PN will crumble if he leaves. However, I’m convinced he enjoys enormous support and has a majority in the parliamentary group.”
“There’s a lot of anger out there at the way this dirty campaign was conducted and at how some people tried to use personal matters to destroy him. That tactic backfired and people have no warmed up to him even more.”
“If a couple of MPs thought they could oust him as leader, it is clear that they didn’t find support, and I quote [secretary general] Clyde Puli when he said they should come out in the open if they believe he should resign. I expect these MPs to grow a spine; throwing a stone and hiding your hand isn’t an option.”
‘A fascist use of WhatsApp groups’
Two of these privately critical MPs who spoke to Lovin Malta on condition of anonymity said last night’s rally at Dar Centrali was a flop.
“The party spent a week drumming up support for this occasion but only around 400 people and a third of the parliamentary group attended, I think that says something,” one of them said. “I think a majority of the parliamentary group wants Delia out, but the situation is very fluid and it could well be that some people will call for him to stay, at least until the upcoming MEP and local council election.”
Another MP played down arguments that the PN grassroots are overwhelmingly behind Delia, warning that PN officials had actually called up members of sectional committees to pressure them to pass an urgent declaration in support of the PN leader. He also warned that top PN officials are involved in WhatsApp groups “which coordinate attacks on critical MPs and MEPs on social media”.
“It’s such a fascist move to set up a WhatsApp group to coordinate character assassination attacks against your fellow party members,” the MP said.
Nickie Vella de Fremeaux has accused her husband Adrian Delia of domestic violence
However, another MP insisted that yesterday’s meeting at Dar Centrali was fully organic and the PN intentionally didn’t promote it through SMSes, phone calls and social media so as not to give off the impression that it was an SOS.
“We were overwhelmed by the support, not even the last pre-electoral rally had attracted so many people,” the MP said. “It was a show of force and a clear message to the rebels, whoever they are, that if they try and oust Delia they will stop supporting them.”
Although the MP estimated that only 13 out of his 28 colleagues were present last night, he insisted that this is not worrying for Delia.
“It is worrying for them, not for us, because they clearly gambled wrongly,” he said. “I think more and more MPs will start being visible next to Delia now, as has become the trend in the past year and a half. First they try and kick him down and undermine him, and when they fail, they attempt some damage control among the grassroots by appearing at his side and begging to be given space on our media.”
‘Delia’s critics are like Chihuahuas’
Two officials separately said that an MP had originally signed a declaration calling for Delia’s resignation but later emailed the person who was collecting signatures to inform him that he wanted to retract his name from the list.
“There is absolutely no wave of resistance against Adrian Delia,” one high-ranking official said. “The reality is that there’s a couple of MPs who were against him. They’re like Chihuahuas – very small but very loud. Nevertheless, these people still approach him, address press conferences with him and sing karaoke at our Christmas lunches as though everything is fine.”
“MPs and councillors won’t speak out publicly against Delia unless they know they have support, and it is indicative that not a single MP has so far publicly called for his resignation.”
Delia has come out of this ordeal swinging, warning that some MPs and officials have adamantly refused to respect his mandate to lead the party from the get-go.
“Some of these people haven’t yet realised that it is good for the PN to be given a breath of fresh air, a new methodology and new ideas, that it is good to challenge the status quo, that we can praise the government when it does something right and provide constructive criticism when it does something wrong,” he said this week.
“It is good to reach out to people, to try and solve their problems on the spot instead of telling them to wait. It is good to admit we made mistakes in the past, to apologise, to tell those we have hurt in the past that we are to blame. It is good to recognise court decisions, to fight and debate each other with ideas and not personal attacks. It is good to have a party that doesn’t hate people, that attacks with the intention of building and not destroying, to fight corruption but also to fight hatred once and for all.”