President George Vella has decided against removing Adrian Delia as Opposition leader.
In a lengthy statement, he said his decision shouldn’t stifle “mature discussion” within the PN on what measures it should take to solve its leadership crisis.
“I have kept in mind that any decision I will take must respect the safeguarding of democracy and the serene environment that must reign in Parliament and the nation,” he said. “The situation which saw the majority of Opposition MPs express a lack of trust in the Opposition leader is unprecedented. One hopes that measures and developments will take place to clarify this situation further.”
“A special case like this deserves special treatment and the invocation of the doctrine of necessity. In my opinion, the necessity to ensure continuity in the functioning of our parliamentary system justifies the need to depart from the written word of the Constitution.”
“I am conscious of my obligations and responsibilities to safeguard stability and continuity in the country.”
Vella confirmed that 16 Opposition MPs, the majority of the PN parliamentary group, declared they don’t have trust in Delia as Opposition leader, while 11 MPs said they still trust him. One MP, believed to be Stephen Spiteri, abstained.
The Constitution states that the President should revoke the appointment of the Opposition leader if another MP gains the support of the majority of Opposition MPs.
Vella noted that while Delia has indeed lost the support of the majority of his MPs, he had to consider the consequences of removing him as Opposition leader, namely the immediate question of who will replace him.
He also noted that the Constitution states that the Opposition leader must be the MP who is also leader of the largest party in Opposition.
“No matter how constitutional experts interpret this clause, what is certain is that removing the Opposition leader even though he is still leader of his party will make this difficult, if not impossible,” he said.
“If the Opposition leader is removed through the strength of Art 90 (4) and then, immediately or eventually, reappointed through the strength of Art 90 (2), this will create an anomalous situation which certainly wouldn’t have been what the Constitution intended and which wouldn’t have been in the spirit of the Constitution.”
“Articles and sub articles in the Constitution shouldn’t contradict each other, and neither should they be expected to.”
He said he was essentially based in a bind, whereby appointing an MP who isn’t PN leader to the post of Opposition leader would go against the Constitution, while leaving the position vacant would be untenable in the long-term.
“The dilemma is whether to follow the text of the Constitution, create a situation that goes against the Constitution or consider this to be a special situation and adopt special measures. In my judgement, although Adrian Delia has lost the support of the majority of Opposition MPs, he shouldn’t be removed as Opposition leader because he is still leader of the largest party in Opposition.”
“This decision should halt the discussion on who should be appointed Opposition leader, including the proposal of Opposition MPs to appoint Therese Comodini Cachia, but it shouldn’t stifle a mature discussion on what measures should be taken to correct this situation.”