Adrian Delia will address the Nationalist Party’s traditional Independence Day mass meeting at the Floriana Granaries tonight, in what will be his first address to a large crowd since he was elected PN leader last weekend.
It is Delia’s first real chance to show the Maltese public what sort of leader he will be and, in that spirit, here are seven major issues he should address tonight.
1. How he intends to get into Parliament
Delia has been skirting around this question for months but, with Parliament set to reconvene in two weeks’ time, there really is no getting away from it now. His easiest route would be for one of the PN’s MPs who was elected through a casual election to give up their seat, as that would allow the leader to be instantly co-opted into Parliament.
However, all of the four PN MPs (Karol Aquilina, Ivan Bartolo, Maria Deguara and David Stellini) who were elected through a casual election have publicly said they will not give up their seat and one of them – Ivan Bartolo – reportedly even turned down Delia’s compensatory offer of a paid consultancy position.
If Delia proves unable to convince one of these four MPs to make a U-turn then he will have to convince one of the remaining MPs to give up their seat and all the other candidates who had contested on that MP’s district to not run for casual election. However, this route would be tricky as it would also require convincing the Partit Demokratiku candidates who had contested the last election on the PN ticket not to run either.
Either that, or the Nationalist Party and the Opposition leader will have to be two different people…
2. How he intends to bring his PN critics on board
Adrian Delia shakes hands with Chris Said during a PN leadership debate
Delia has pledged to unite the PN and have the party speaking from one voice after a particularly bitter and divisive leadership campaign, but this will be easier said than done.
Not too long ago, fellow leadership contestant Chris Said was strongly suggesting Delia would turn the PN into a photocopy of Labour and the likes of fellow MP Jason Azzopardi went as far as to insinuate he was Labour’s “Trojan Horse”. Now Delia must turn his former rivals into friends with a shared cause of beating Labour.
Former PN leader Eddie Fenech Adami had made his leadership rival Gudio de Marco PN deputy leader and, decades later, Simon Busuttil did the same to his leadership rival (coincidentally Guido de Marco’s son) Mario de Marco. It has yet to be seen whether Delia will offer a similar conciliatory olive branch to Said…
3. What he will do with the Partit Demokratiku
Marlene Farrugia has warned Delia will ‘snuff out any life’ left of PN
Thanks to its pre-electoral coalition with the PN, the still-relatively-young Partit Demokratiku managed to elect two Opposition MPs to Parliament. One of them, the PD’s outgoing leader Marlene Farrugia, has been relentless in her criticism of Delia and today warned he will “snuff out any life” left of the PN.
Delia has already said he doesn’t envision a repeat of this year’s pre-electoral coalition in the next election, but his problem is more immediate than that. As Opposition MPs, Marlene Farrugia and her partner Godfrey have been invited by the PN to take part in the Opposition’s parliamentary group meetings, which means Delia will have to negotiate with them in some form or other.
There is also the factor that both MPs proved popular with Nationalist voters last election, with Marlene Farrugia managing to get elected from the tenth district (Sliema, St Julian’s, Gzira, Pembroke) ahead of heavyweight PN MPs, despite not even being from that district itself. Indeed, since Delia’s election as leader, several PN voters have pledged to vote for PD in the next election.
Will Delia’s PN adjust to this rising sentiment towards a less bipartisan form of politics and seek to work closely with PD, and perhaps other smaller parties? Or will he try and play the strongman and seek to make it completely by himself?
4. What will be new about his ‘new way’
Adrian Delia has so far been a harsh critic of government corruption
Adrian Delia’s campaign had the catchy slogan ‘A New Way’ but, apart from tired buzzwords about moving the party closer to the people, he has yet to give a clear and concrete indication of how the PN under his leadership will be different to the PN under Busuttil.
The early signs are it will not be that different in substance though. In one of his first comments as leader, Delia said he has no intention of bringing about a political earthquake to the PN but rather “a change of mentality”.
He has also attempted to quash rumours he will close a blind eye to government corruption, by pledging to tackle it (to much applause) during his post-election political activities and by appearing side by side with Busuttil in the latter’s recent court case calling for a magisterial inquiry into the Panama Papers.
Yesterday, he also lashed out at tourism minister Konrad Mizzi’s warning to Air Malta’s unions that he could close the airline and re-open it with new workers, and criticised Joseph Muscat for attending the UN General Assembly in New York instead of staying in Malta to celebrate Independence Day.
He will not get a better chance than tonight to spell out a change of direction for the PN under his leadership…
5. Gender equality within PN
Delia has said there is no need for the Moviment Nisa PN (Photo: Facebook)
Delia last night said he disagreed with the concept of the PN’s women’s committee (MNPN), arguing the PN had no ‘men’s section’ and the MNPN’s existence only serves to promote differences between men and women.
“Let’s not use women for political convenience,” he said. “Let us not use women for political convenience. Those who find the door closed because of their gender, will find the door of the Nationalist Party wide open.”
It is a fair argument, but Delia must now follow it up with plans to promote gender equality within the PN. The Labour Party has recently announced it will phase in gender quotas on its electoral lists, with the aim of having a completely gender balanced list of candidates by 2027. To this end, it has launched a training academy for women interested in getting into politics, which 85 women have already applied for. Meanwhile, Joseph Muscat has suggested introducing gender quotas in the current legislature.
Disbanding the MNPN is not enough to promote gender equality. Will Delia follow Labour’s lead or will he try something completely different?
6. Mend bridges with the media
Adrian Delia has clashed with Daphne Caruana Galizia
One of the main ‘attractions’ of the PN leadership campaign was Delia’s feud with journalist-blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, which has shown no sign of abating since the election. Yet Delia is leader of a major political party now and it is his responsibility to rise above such feuds and to recognize the importance to democracy of a free press which holds power to account.
Statements such as those claiming Caruana Galizia’s blogs against him are solely motivated by a desire to gain a higher revenue through advertising seem harmless enough but could spiral into something more dangerous if left unchallenged.
Delia is certainly correct when he says the PN’s media needs to improve its social media game and stop solely preaching to the converted, but a fully-functioning democracy requires a strong independent media more than it requires a strong party media. The time is ripe for Delia to acknowledge this.
7. Address some of Malta’s most pressing issues
Police are reportedly stopping African people from even entering Marsa
Delia is no longer in campaign mode where his audience was the PN’s paid-up members, the party’s loyal base who he could motivated by convincing them he has what it takes to get the PN back into government. He is now speaking to a national audience and as such must start proposing solutions to key national issues, rather than just rejecting the government’s proposals.
With long-let rent prices spiralling out of control for average-income citizens, will he propose an alternative to finance minister Edward Scicluna’s insistence that the government shouldn’t intervene in the market? With Marsa residents feeling increasingly concerned about their security and the police reacting by reportedly denying African immigrants entry into the town, will Delia come up with a bridge-building solution? With excess construction ruining the natural environment, uglifying towns and causing even more traffic jams, will Delia step in to save the day?
Bonus: Give us some more interesting vocabulary
Delia clearly likes to use the word ‘trapass‘ (passageway), a word used frequently in the law courts but one Caruana Galizia has flagged as literally meaning ‘a passage to the afterlife’. Still, it has added some excitement to his speeches and here’s hoping he adds some more grandiose-sounding words to the lexicon of Maltese political vocabulary.