Updated to include the statement by Louis Galea:
Opposition Leader Adrian Delia is still refusing to leave after losing a vote of confidence within the Party’s Executive Committee late last night.
Thirty-five members voted to retain Delia while 47 members voted against. One member abstained.
The vote, which was suggested by former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, was held only a week after he lost the trust of the majority of the Party’s MPs.
Yet Delia insisted he was not leaving, referring once again to Party members (tesserati) who had voted him in. He is also resisting calls for a leadership race.
Delia said in his first reaction that he will continue to work harder to ensure the voice of Party members is respected by all the Party structures.
MP Therese Comodini Cachia, who was nominated as Opposition Leader by the majority of members of the PN parliamentary group, said the Party will continue to seek unity.
Delia was retained as Opposition Leader following a controversial decision by President George Vella on Monday. Experts agree President’s decision to keep Delia violates the Constitution.
In a piece published in The Malta Independent, Professor Kevin Aquilina, Professor of Law at the University of Malta, explains why the President’s interpretation is incorrect.
“According to the Constitution, once the President has arrived at this self-declared conclusion, he has only one step to take: to remove, forthwith, Dr Adrian Delia from the position of Leader of the Opposition,” Aquilina said.
He questioned how the President could establish that Delia did not enjoy the support of the majority and yet decide he should still occupy the role. “How can the President establish such facts, but then not act thereupon? Is the President now above the Constitution? Can he now ignore the Constitution?”, asked Aquilina.
Vella’s ruling ignores and runs against precedent, the law professor pointed out. He referred to the election of Joseph Muscat as Labour Party Leader that led to a situation in which the Leader of the Opposition was not the Leader of the majority Party in Opposition, but an MP hailing from that same political party.
Charles Mangion was made interim Leader of the Opposition. For four months, the Party Leader was not the Opposition Leader.
Delia himself was Party Leader while Simon Busuttil was Opposition leader for three weeks while the new Leader sought to occupy a Parliamentary seat.
Legal sources consulted by The Shift described the President’s move as “democratically subversive”. Besides breaching the Constitution manifestly, it more critically severs the link between the people, represented by the people they elected, and a Constitutional office of very significant importance and privilege.
“That office and its national power, including of appointment over Constitutional organs and bodies, now are being exercised without democratic mandate, but only an irrelevant mandate of unelected tesserati who do not represent anyone, let alone 44% of the Maltese people,” one expert said.
“It is a Constitutional travesty that makes a mockery of our vote and the system of representative democracy.”
In a statement this morning, PN veteran Louis Galea, who had assisted Delia in Party reform, stressed the need for a strong Opposition led by a new leader.
“I know of no democratic country where a political leader loses the trust of a majority of MPs and of the Executive Committee of his Party and fails to chose the obvious and honourable road and prepare the ground for a change in leadership”.
Galea said it was wrong that Delia dismissed the weight of Party structures when saying that these votes had no consequence. “The votes of MPs elected by thousands of citizens, and those of the Executive Committee elected by those at the lowest and highest levels of the Party, are not votes against the interest of the PN but a free and democratic expression on what is the best option for the Party to start on a fresh path towards success”.