Leader of the Opposition

Adrian Delia is frantically fighting a race against time. It has become increasingly evident that his gamble for leadership of the nationalist party did not include the foresight or plan that would account for the fact that he needs to find a way to get into parliament. This lack of foresight does not bode well for the nationalist party – that it is lead by someone unable to make the most simple of calculations is not exactly a bright light for the future. If my sources are right, plan B for Delia and his entourage seems to be the harassing of a number of MPs that are judged as most likely to want (or to be forced) to give up their seat and make way for the half-heartedly anointed one. It is a clumsy and roundabout way of doing things that jars conspicuously with the declared marketing of TeamDelia of wanting to unite the party behind Adrian as quickly as possible.

Unwitting supporters have even been asked to turn their guns onto the PD as though the damned coalition meant that the Democratic Party owed the Nationalist Party anything other than collaboration in parliament against the forces of corruption. Kudos to Marlene Farrugia who has strongly retorted that she will not be turned in this respect and that the PD will jump at any chance to take the place of any MP who chooses to call it quits and force a by-election. Of course Delia and his team will choose to take this opportunity to ride roughshod over the concept of coalition and collaboration – hatred of anything the coalition was about is after all one of the hallmarks of Delia’s New Way. So much for a deeper understanding of the changes that are necessary in the way politics is made.

But what about the Holy Grail position of the Leader of the Opposition? Well, constitutionally we are in a bit of a conundrum. First of all, none of the conditions that create a vacancy of the position of Leader of Opposition (Article 90(3) of the Constitution) has been fulfilled so technically since Simon Busuttil is still a member of the House of Representatives and consequently has not vacated the position. Let us assume that by informing the President of his intention to no longer lead the nationalist party, Simon Busuttil has de facto given up his place as Leader of the Opposition that he occupied under the terms of 90(2)(a) of the Constitution. In that case, until Delia manages to find a way into Parliament we can try to see who can legitimately fill that constitutional role come the 1st of October. Whichever scenario you take, whether it is under article 90(2)(a) (the MP who leads the opposition party with the largest number of members) or under article 90(4) (If, in the judgment of the President, a member of the House of Representatives other than the Leader of the Opposition, has become the Leader in the House of the opposition party having the greatest numerical strength in the House) – in both cases the Leader of the Opposition is (a) a member of the house and (b) commands/leads the largest number of opposition members. In the absence of the party leader (Adrian Delia) the obvious constitutional choice until the dilemma is solved is to nominate the Deputy Leader for Parliamentary matters (Mario DeMarco) as the Leader of the Opposition.

Sure, it can be a strange situation where the Leader of the Party is not the same person as the Leader of the Opposition but this does not mean that it cannot and will not work. As I said, Delia should have foreseen this situation before he decided to throw in his name as a leadership candidate. It’s not like he was not asked the question as from the start of his campaign. Even a minimum of constitutional knowledge would have told him that no MP on any side of the house owes any party anything. The seats are not theirs to give – they have been elected by their constituents and owe them the duty of representation. Giving up that seat for a man who only three months ago was unwilling to represent any part of the nation would be a betrayal of their constituents of the highest order.

I am quite sure that in the end one MP will be found who will give in to the heavy handed tactics of TeamDelia. It does not bode well at all though. It is one thing to elbow your way into the leadership of a party, it is another altogether to bulldoze your way into a constitutional position without the least bit of deference to the constitutional principles that underlie a constitutional democracy.