For the past three years, the Nationalist Party has been an unstable and unelectable mess.
Whoever pins the blame on Adrian Delia must also blame the parliamentary group for failing to get rid of him.
One failed coup attempt after another has not only resulted in a weaker leader and a fractured party. It has also, more importantly, resulted in a totally ineffective Opposition at a time when Malta has never needed one more.
Today the Nationalist Party once again has an opportunity to do the right thing.
Whether it is Delia or his parliamentary group, one of them needs to do the inevitable and trigger a journey towards getting a new leader, who can provide the country with the Opposition it desperately needs.
The most painless solution is for Delia to do this of his own accord. He has fought long enough and has been given ample chances to do better. His party (and its supporters) clearly do not want him in the lead anymore, so he must stop imposing himself on them and leave in a dignified manner.
His failure to do what is so painfully obviously needed, is now becoming suspicious.
Unless he is totally delusional, his insistence on staying at the helm begins to raise more serious as to why he is doing this.
We cannot forget that Delia is under a magisterial inquiry over an allegation that he accepted a €50,000 bribe from Yorgen Fenech.
If the inquiry finds truth to the claims and police prosecute the sitting Opposition leader, imagine how Malta would be seen internationally. So if Delia has something to hide from the law, his current role could be offering him protection.
Currently there is no real evidence to suggest Delia did accept a bribe from Fenech. However, he has not helped his case.
Delia has spent months denying having any relationship whatsoever with Fenech, especially after the revelation that Fenech was the owner of 17 Black, a secret Dubai company involved in corruption.
But on Sunday we learnt that Fenech sent Delia regular WhatsApp messages, which included inside jokes and nicknames like ‘Kbir’. We also found out that Fenech invited Delia to a casual lunch and the Opposition leader had replied by saying he would get his right-hand man to organise it. And this was after 17 Black had been revealed.
The WhatsApp chats are perhaps not a resignation matter in and of themselves. But they do conflict with the impression Delia has been giving all along.
Now we start to understand why Delia did not immediately volunteer a full account of his relationship with Fenech but hid behind the rubbish excuse that he doesn’t quite remember the date he met him for lunch because he met so many people at the time. As if he doesn’t keep a calendar.
Delia once again looks dishonest.
Worse than that, instead of providing a credible explanation, Delia is seeking to cast doubts on the veracity of the messages. Is he saying Times of Malta made up the chats? And is he going to show us his WhatsApp messages to prove it or are we going to have to wait until the messages are published in court to see how dishonest he is being yet again?
If nothing else, this is the straw that should break the camel’s back.
The PN parliamentary group must realise now – if never before – that Malta cannot continue to have an Opposition leader who is broke, unpopular, lacking support from his own party AND patently dishonest.
Especially not when the country is making a concerted effort to rid itself of dubious characters from politics.
Robert Abela, with all his flaws, is taking some decisive action to clean up his party, his government and institutions like the police force. We now need someone to do the same with the Opposition, an institution that we must be able to have full faith in and which should be one-upping the government when it comes to standards, not lagging behind.
A new leader will not solve all of PN’s problems, which started way before Delia came along. But it can be a start. Someone who is not demonstrably inept and dishonest could at least have a fighting chance at uniting the party behind a plan of action.
The parliamentary group has had many opportunities to do the right thing, but it has always held back so far.
Perhaps they felt they didn’t have a good enough leader to choose from. Or that the new leader would be wasted if Labour called an early election. Or that the new leader would face backlash from Delia supporters.
But all these are pathetic excuses.
And now they no longer have the excuse of not having numbers on their side within the parliamentary group. They clearly do.
All they need is someone who is prepared to put his or her face to the leadership challenge.
Many in the PN have shirked their duty to come forward at crucial junctures and they are also to blame for the mess the PN finds itself in right now.
The leader who steps up today has a chance to break the dam that is holding back tens of thousands of voters from supporting the PN.
If nobody steps forward tonight, voters will once again be reminded that all hope in the once glorious PN is lost, and most likely, lost for good.