President George Vella announced his decision that Adrian Delia could not be removed from his role as Leader of the Opposition because the position should be held by the leader of the largest Party in Opposition, despite a majority of MPs having nominated Therese Comodini Cachia as an alternative.
The President confirmed that meetings held with the Opposition parliamentary group showed Delia no longer enjoyed their support. He justified his decision to depart from what is written in the Constitution on “the principle of necessity” – undermining the supreme law of the land for his view of “continuity” and “stability”.
“Special cases like this one merit a special treatment where we can invoke the principle of necessity. The necessity to have continuity in the workings of our parliament, in my opinion, justifies the need to move away from the words in the Constitution,” President George Vella said in his statement.
Reacting, the “absolute majority of MPs in the Nationalist Party” have said that the President’s decision goes against the Constitution. The MPs said they are determined to bring about change in the Nationalist Party and the country.
“For the second time in a week, it has been confirmed that Adrian Delia does not enjoy the trust of the absolute majority of the PN’s parliamentary group. The President had the duty to remove him from Leader of the Opposition and appoint that person who enjoys trust. This is what the Constitution wants and this is what the President failed to do.”
The statement reiterates the group’s commitment towards Party and country to see that the PN is led by “a person of integrity, honesty and credibility who puts the national interests before those of his own”.
Comodini Cachia said she remains determined to serve the PN and the country “following the unity I have managed to get in the last days within the parliamentary group”.
The group had previously said that they would be willing to take the case before the Constitutional court. The Shift contact MPs to ask whether their declared commitment meant this was the next move. MP Chris Said replied: “We will keep all options open”.
Opposition Leader Adrian Delia recorded a message that he shared on social media. He said the President’s decision “has to be respected by all those who believe in the rule of law”.
“This decision has given me a greater sense of humility,” he said. “I remained quiet after a number of MPs went to speak to the President. Not that I did not have anything to say.”
He promised his hard work to Party members and all those who voted for him “democratically”.
“I thank the thousands who supported me in the last days. I give you my word, I will keep serving you and all that the Party believes in.”
“No one won today. We will win when we learn how to unite,” he added.
Constitutional experts had agreed that the President must verify whether the PN leader had lost the support of his MPs and appoint a new one should this be the case.
Former European Court of Human Rights Judge Giovanni Bonello had said different sections of the Constitution cannot be used to contradict each other.
Law professor Kevin Aquilina had said the MP who enjoys the majority of support should replace the incumbent leader, although “this is not spelt out black on white.”