Bernard Grech has been elected PN leader after triumphing against PN leader Adrian Delia tonight, but who is the man chosen to lead Malta’s second largest party?
This article was originally published on 26th July but has been updated to include the latest from Grech’s campaign
Born in Paola in 1971, Grech grew up in Birżebbuġa and graduated as a lawyer, specialising in civil law. His life was struck with tragedy and the ugliest side of politics when he was only six years old, after his cousin Karin Grech was killed by a letter bomb addressed to her father.
The murder remains unsolved till this day and, in a debate last year, Bernard Grech said this was due to several mistakes carried out in the initial investigations.
Grech has been married for 23 years and has two grown-up children, aged 21 and 19. After they were born, he spent some time as a semi-househusband, quite a rare breed in Maltese society.
Explaining his decision, he said he never harboured any huge career ambitions and wanted to remain close to his family while reducing expenses.
“Since my wife is a teacher, she had limited time to drop the kids off at nursery and pick them up, so I’d go late to work and work reduced hours, sometimes from 9am till noon,” he told Lovin Malta last July. “It’s something I’m proud of.”
Professionally, Grech didn’t build a large law firm as Delia did but instead works out of two offices, one right next to his Mosta home and another right next to his parents’ house.
His legal career hasn’t focused on litigation but on mediation, particularly related to family and property law. With the Nationalist Party torn apart into warring groups, Grech unsurprisingly believes that mediation will be an important skillset for its next leader.
Politically speaking, Grech is as new a face as they come; he has never been involved in any branches of a political party and has never contested an election.
He had a stint in the public eye in 2011 when he campaigned against the legalisation of divorce as part of the Żwieġ Bla Divorzju movement.
Explaining his rationale back then, he said he wanted children of separated couples to keep on hoping that their parents will someday unite, something which he argued was possible with separation but not with divorce.
However, the majority of Maltese people disagreed and voted in favour of divorce.
In 2015, Grech joined the Mostin u Ħbieb Kontra x-Shooting Range movement to, as the name suggests, oppose a proposed shooting range in Busbesija. This campaign proved to be successful and the shooting range proposal was eventually scrapped.
And all throughout his life, Grech has involved himself with voluntary work, working with youths and people with disabilities since he was 17 years old.
However, it was only in 2018 that the lawyer’s name started to gain serious prominence, with PN supporters touting him as a potential successor to Delia and surveys repeatedly showing he was more popular than the incumbent leader.
Although Grech himself never campaigned overtly or, as far as we know, covertly, several PN supporters appeared to be charmed by his calm but to-the-point style of speaking on party media.
His profile was enhanced further when Malta’s most popular TV show, Xarabank, started inviting him on as a panelist for political discussions. Grech would often line up with Joe Giglio (who has also been named as a potential PN leader) as PN-leaning lawyers to debate political issues with PL-leaning lawyers Robert Musumeci and Andy Ellul.
Last June, he delivered a speech at a vigil for assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in which he compared people who believe Malta is a “normal country” to Flat Earthers and urged Labour supporters to join in the fight for Malta’s “normality”.
When the PN General Council decided to call an election last August, Grech was the only person to put his name forward to contest against Delia.
In his campaign, Grech stressed on the importance of achieving party unity to ensure the PN can provide a strong Opposition and that it can be viewed by people as an alternative government.
He didn’t propose many national policies, stating that he wanted to discuss most controversial topics before taking a stance, but he repeatedly warned that Malta’s international reputation has been tarnished by corruption at the upper echelons of government.
Indeed, the most controversial point in his campaign came when ONE TV dug up a remark he had passed in December, when he said he would pretend to be Greek when travelling overseas because he was ashamed to admit he was Maltese because of government corruption.
He also faced criticism about how he had settled an outstanding €30,000 tax bill during his campaign and he himself admitted he “could have been more careful” to avoid this situation. Grech was also criticised by three ministers for resuming his physical PN leadership campaign a few days after he announced his wife tested positive for COVID-19. However, the health authorities gave him the all-clear to continue campaigning.
Grech said the Labour Party was “seriously worried” about his candidature and was trying to derail his campaign because it didn’t want a strong Opposition.
Yesterday evening, Grech called for the resignation of parliamentary secretary for active ageing Silvio Parnis over the manner in which COVID-19 spread across elderly care homes.
And tonight, Grech has been confirmed as the PN leader, the start of a new chapter in Maltese politics.
Do you think Bernard Grech will make a good PN leader?