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MPs close to Delia coy on co-option issues

Talks to secure Delia’s entry into Parliament via co-option have failed

From left: Clyde Puli, Hermann Schiavone, Kristy Debono and Jean Pierre Debono.

From left: Clyde Puli, Hermann Schiavone, Kristy Debono and Jean Pierre Debono.

Nationalist MPs close to Adrian Delia would not say whether they would be ready to sacrifice their seat in case there is no other way to co-opt the newly elected party leader in Parliament.

Contacted yesterday by the Times of Malta, Jean Pierre Debono, Kristy Debono, Clyde Puli and Hermann Schiavone, who openly endorsed Dr Delia’s leadership bid, were not willing to disclose their intentions, at least at this stage.

Speculation on Dr Delia’s co-option plan has been rife from the moment of his triumph in last Saturday’s run-off with Chris Said. Prior to his election, the 48-year-old lawyer repeatedly said he already had “solutions” to the problem. He also told this newspaper his co-option would happen in time for the Budget, set for October 9.

He refused to elaborate, saying he would give details only in case of victory.

Four days into his leadership, talks to secure Dr Delia’s entry into Parliament via a straight co-option procedure have failed.

It seems likely that to become an MP and assume the role of Opposition leader, he will have to depend on the complicated casual election mechanism.

From the very beginning of Dr Delia’s campaign, Mr Debono, the outgoing PN assistant general secretary, was touted as the MP willing to relinquish his seat.

Despite various, denials, Mr Debono is still being mentioned within PN circles should no other MP come forward to make way. Mr Debono pointed out yesterday that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who faced the same hurdle when elected Labour leader in 2008, had taken three months to announce that Joseph Cuschieri would vacate his seat for him.

In separate replies, Mr Debono, his wife, Kristy, and Mr Schiavone told this newspaper that it was “premature” to debate the matter at this stage.

Mr Puli gave a rather lengthy reply, though he did not commit either. He said the decision should not be based on any personal wishes but on the party’s best interests. “As Dr Delia has said, nobody is bigger than the party, and so it must be up to the party, under the direction of its leadership, to decide what role each and every member must have. This has always been the case and this is how it should remain,” he said.

The choice must not be based on who was elected in the first count in the general election nor on those who made it through a casual election in those districts chosen by the executive committee (in the case of candidates elected from two districts), Mr Puli added.

He said dual districts were chosen to increase the likelihood of donkey voting (whereby candidates whose surnames come at the start of the alphabet could be at an advantage over those at the end, having an effect on the outcome and favouring candidates who “were not the automatic choice of the people”.

The choice must neither fall to those who backed Dr Delia’s leadership bid nor others who exercised their democratic right to endorse a different candidate, Mr Puli continued.

Noting that Dr Delia was the clear choice of the members, he pointed out that the 30 Opposition MPs and the two Democratic Party MPs would most probably not have been elected had they not contested as PN candidates.

Mr Puli argued Godfrey Farrugia’s PD seat was “nearly gifted” to him by the decision to hold a casual election on the seventh district to fill the seat vacated by Beppe Fenech Adami.

“Those driven by their personal ambitions who have been pontificating on decency in politics must do the most decent thing by refraining from interfering in a clear, democratic choice through their legalisms,” he said.

Within the PN ranks, there are individuals who believe that MPs like Jason Azzopardi and Karol Aquilina, who have clashed with Dr Delia, should be the ones to step aside.

However, Dr Azzopardi yesterday made it amply clear he had no such intention. “The seat is not mine but has been lent to me by my constituents.

“Secondly, one would have expected that a newcomer aspiring to the leadership would first ensure securing a parliamentary seat and not expect others to do it for him,” he said.

Dr Aquilina did not mince words either. “I should not even consider resigning, because Dr Delia repeatedly said in his campaign that he had identified the solution.” He denied rumours that he was interested in or had been offered the post of PN general secretary in return for relinquishing his seat.

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