The Nationalist Party degenerated into utter chaos yesterday. After weeks of rumblings, 200 PN activists officially requested a vote on the resignation of Adrian Delia, but were met with stern resistance by PN supporters still loyal to the Opposition leader.
Lines were drawn in the sand, shots were fired and accusations were flung around as the battle for the party’s soul raged on. If you weren’t following, here’s how it played out.
1. 200 people sign a petition calling for a vote to be taken on Delia’s future in the PN General Council
We don’t yet know who these 200 people are, but four of them faced the cameras yesterday to announce the petition had been filed. These are former PN executive president Mark Anthony Sammut, MŻPN secretary general Emma Portelli Bonnici, Attard councillor Martin Musumeci and Mellieħa councillor Emvin Bartolo.
In light of last month’s electoral disaster, Bartolo argued that drastic action must be taken within the PN to strengthen the Opposition and prevent Malta from slipping into a one-party state.
2. But Delia’s supporters fight back
However, PN members (tesserati) who want Delia to stay on turned the tables on the party rebels, pinning the blame for the election defeat precisely on unnamed MPs and officials who have been against the leader since day one.
In a motion,they claimed these MPs and officials are part of a systematic campaign that includes “pseudo-bloggers and pseudo-NGOs”, in what seemed like an obvious reference to blogger Manuel Delia and the groups Occupy Justice and Repubblika.
3. Manuel Delia rips into ‘idiotic politicking’
Manuel Delia clearly got the reference, penning an impassioned blogpost in which he warned that the PN has indulged in “idiotic politicking” since Delia was elected leader.
“Apparently [the petition] was the work of my hidden hand. I’ll tell you where my hand is hidden. Read on. Idiots,” he wrote. “As they had done with Daphne Caruana Galizia, these people think they can blame an earthquake on the seismometer that measured it.”
“Tell you what. If you permit yourself to think a pseudo-blogger had anything to do with the first petition calling a general meeting, allow me to assume that the counter-petition among party members to ignore the first petition is being organised by a pseudo-party leader.”
— Karol Aquilina (@KarolAquilina) June 25, 2019
Manuel Delia was backed by PN MP Karol Aquilina, who sarcastically tweeted that “pseudo is the new biċċa” (mere), a reference to when Adrian Delia had mocked Daphne Caruana Galizia as a “biċċa blogger”.
4. David Casa is accused of helping coordinate the anti-Delia campaign
A PN activist who supports Adrian Delia claimed an unnamed Marsa councillor had received a phonecall from someone who wanted him to sign the original petition for a vote of confidence to be taken in the leader.
The number allegedly matched a phone number PN MEP David Casa had published during his re-election campaign for people who wanted to contact him.
Casa’s staff denied that he was coordinating the campaign, but the accusation spread regardless.
“I’ve known since day one that a vote for David Casa would be a vote against the leader and against the PN, and I’m proud to not have supported him,” the activist who revealed the phone number said.
5. Adrian Delia’s supporters have just about enough
Delia’s supporters were clearly angry at the political manoeuvres being made to remove their leader, with many pledging not to vote for the PN if he is made to resign.
“Who hurts the leader also hurts me, and I never forgive,” someone said. “Sooner or later, everyone will reap what they sow.”
“Traitors of the PN,” someone else said. “You’ve destroyed the party just because you want to take control of it yourselves. YOU DON’T STAND A CHANCE!”
“Delia should call an open vote to expose their traitors,” another person proposed. “If Delia is removed, then I will no longer support the Nationalist Party.”
6. Former PN leader’s son calls for vote of censure
Alexander Borg Olivier, the son of former PN leader George Borg Olivier, stood up for Adrian Delia and called for a vote of censure against his internal critics to be taken instead.
“A vote of censure should be taken against those who are working against the PN’s interests through their disloyal behaviour,” he said. “They should either stop immediately and work hand in hand with the party and with loyalty to the leader, or resign themselves so that the PN can speak with one voice and without disruptions.”
7. Clyde Puli gets hit
#PNAllaRiscossa👀 Hares sew, Clyde & co, dawn huma nies ta' stoffa tal-partit.
An Occupy Justice activist published a screenshot of PN secretary general Clyde Puli watching a live stream of the petitioners requesting a vote on Delia’s future.
“Watch carefully, Clyde and co, these are the people with a backbone within the party,” Alessandra Dee Crespo said.
8. Franco Debono weighs in with an unexpected contribution
Criminal lawyer and former PN MP Franco Debono took a dig at Emma Portelli Bonnici, one of the petitioners who asked for a vote in Delia’s future, for wearing a scarf in the boiling heat.
In a series of now-deleted Facebook posts, he described Portelli Bonnici as a “symbol of the sheer arrogance that led the PN to its current state”. Debono then pointed out that Portelli Bonnici had once called him “irrelevant”.
9. Battle spills into internal elections
The PN will shortly hold two internal elections for the recently vacated presidential posts within the administrative council and the executive committee, and the battle lines between the different ‘factions’ are quite clear.
The administrative council post will be an election between Carm Mifsud Bonnici, one of Delia’s most loyal MPs, and Graham Bencini, the president of the PN’s forum of professionals who has supported the petition against Delia.
The executive president post is less clear-cut and will go to either Sliema deputy mayor Graziella Attard Previ or former treasurer Alex Perici Calascione.
Il-Partit Nazzjonalista jirċievi 5 nomini għal karigi fi ħdanu https://t.co/8yKYpXNp0B
— NETnews (@netnewsmalta) June 25, 2019
What happens next is anyone’s guess.
Delia could accept the vote in his leadership head-on, try and challenge the request, or even call a fresh leadership election with himself as a candidate.
What is absolutely certain, though, is that several PN officials and supporters are aware that the party is in crisis and that things cannot stay the same for long. Sooner or later, something is going to have to give.