After two traumatic General Election defeats (and a host more besides), the Nationalist Party is at a crossroads where it has to decide where it is standing on certain issues and also politically. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the Labour Party transformed itself and romped on to a number of election victories that practically guaranteed the governship of the country for years to come. Aside from the allegations of corruption that do not seem to have affected the electorate in general , Muscat was helped by a booming economy especially in the services sector and property market that seems to show no signs of abating.
So where does this leave the Nationalist Party and its leadership? Its leader Simon Busuttil resigned alongside with the whole administration who also resigned en masse after June’s electoral thrashing. A process for the election of a leader was kick started and on Wednesday, the rules of the game were put into the arena. So far we have two candidates who have put their hat into the ring and these are Adrian Delia and Chris Said, both lawyers but the former with practically no political experience whilst the latter is a savvy political operator who is also a former minister.
The pleasant and charismatic Delia is better known as the President of Birkirkara FC, one of the most successful clubs on the island in recent years. He has been praised for his personal touch and communication skills. He is also not afraid to stand up and be counted especially when it comes to protecting his club’s patch and was also involved in a publicized spat with Malta Football Association officials on the seating arrangements at MFA Council meetings. Although he has no real political experience, he has been subtly involved in politics for some years and the rumour of his contesting the party leadership have been going on for some time. His recent appearances in the media have appeared to be quite successful and comments have been generally positive, so it seems that he will be quite a successful contender barring other heavyweights.
The soft spoken and popular Gozitan MP is now established as the top candidate in Gozo for the Nationalist Party. Apart from serving as Minister for some years he was also General Secretary in a period where he managed to reverse the party’s fortunes financially. However his recent task of turning around the PN’s fortunes in Gozo does not appear to have met with much success, since the Labour Party managed to retain Gozo by well over a thousand votes – a crushing defeat for the PN in Gozo so his stock is somewhat tainted in this regard. However, he remains popular in the party and has a lot of experience in political maneuvering so it seems that he will be a strong contender.
Other possible contenders
Although it is still relatively early till the candidates for the leadership position make themselves known, there is some juggling for position being made by certain candidates. Names like Jason Azzopardi, Clyde Puli and even David Agius have been flouted into the debate although they might be contesting other roles such as the Deputy Leadership. Former Party Treasurer Alex Perici Calascione has also been reported as considering a leadership run although again it is doubtful how much support he carries within the whole party. New names such as Ivan Bartolo and more political operatives with a past such as Claudio Grech and Manuel Delia are being mentioned although the former does have some support especially from the old Austin Gatt side of the party. There have also been some rather wild and fantastic suggestions such as Franco Debono who has regularly flouted messages received by Nationalist supporters encouraging him to run for the post. However this particular candidature has to be taken with a pinch of salt.