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Adrian Delia – one year on - Hermann Schiavone

It has been almost a year since Adrian Delia became Nationalist Party leader. He won the first-ever election in which party members, 15,000 of them, participated. Their participation was not merely a voting exercise. Most of them engaged in a widespread debate that flooded social media, leaving many divisions in the process.

The experience of summer 2017 was, to say the least, overwhelming. Delia did not have an easy ride. To start with, he faced tough competition from competent, seasoned politicians in the likes of Chris Said, Alex Perici Calascione and Frank Portelli in the first round. Said, who along with Delia got over the councillors’ hurdle, ran a very good campaign in the second round.

But Delia’s challenges did not only come in the form of the usual competition expected in a leadership battle. He had to endure other challenges from outside and within the party. Unlike the two previous outgoing leaders, Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi, Simon Busuttil was not calling it a day and chose to actively engage himself in the campaign.

Though the final days of the campaign became more and more difficult for Delia, he remained calm, confident and resolute.

He was right. To our surprise, the party councillors, most of whom had got to know the leadership candidate only recently, gave him an overwhelming vote. The party members who welcomed Delia in every town and village confirmed the councillors’ support and the party had a new leader. He got a seat in Parliament and became leader of the Opposition in time to reply to the budget speech.

Just a few weeks after Delia took the oath of leader of the Opposition, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a critic of his, was brutally murdered. This was a challenging time not just for the new leader but for all the country. Her assassination was being discussed around the globe, and her articles now placed under heavier scrutiny. 

In November, the new PN administration took office. The precarious financial situation had to be addressed. A record-breaking fundraising marathon, followed by another two records in March and June, as well as well-attended activities, gave a new injection of confidence. People were pouring money again into the PN, and the new administration was setting sights on a sound financial plan.

Delia’s eloquence and down-to-earth approach, first demonstrated during the campaign, continued throughout the year in public meetings and elsewhere.

In Parliament, he brought a new way of conducting debates.

Moderation, acknowledging good policies and offering constructive criticism became his hallmark. His way of doing politics was a breath of fresh air.

The Egrant mess which dominated the news a few weeks ago did not help the cause. It left a devastating impact on the PN’s credibility

Needless to say corruption remains widespread and almost everyone acknowledges its existence. Still, last year’s PN general election campaign, which was almost entirely focused on this matter, proved ineffective. The electorate spoke clearly. The vast majority want politicians and parties to speak about policies and other issues which affect day-to-day, bread-and-butter matters. Corruption features low among people’s concerns.

The Egrant mess which dominated the news a few weeks ago did not help the cause. It left a devastating impact on the PN’s credibility.

Delia was right to take the steps he took when faced with the inquiry’s conclusions. Regaining credibility to speak about corruption is of paramount importance.

People speak about divisions in the PN. The truth of the matter is that they are only a result of two schools of thought: the first is that there are those among us who believe the party should continue to hammer the corruption mantra.

The second school of thought, led by Delia himself, is that the party, while speaking up and exposing corruption whenever it surfaces, should focus on the bread-and-butter issues which affect people’s lives on a daily basis.

This is why Delia over the past 12 months has spoken about the skyrocketing housing rental prices, the cost of living and other matters. This is also why the PN leader meets people from all walks of life on a daily basis.

Being in continuous contact with people over the past year, Delia learned exactly what their concerns are. 

His next challenge is to bring together the two schools of thought. There is no personal animosity among MPs, just different opinions. The PN has, after all, always been made up of a coalition of thoughts.

I am more than confident that Delia has the capability and willingness to overcome this challenge.

Although it is not reflected in the polls due to various circumstances, in the past year Delia has won the hearts of many.

He still has a long way to go to win over others, however he remains the only person who can change the PN’s fortunes in the years to come.

Hermann Schiavone is a Nationalist MP.

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