How does Adrian Delia plan to be leader of the Opposition if he doesn’t have a seat in parliament?

Published: June 29, 2017 at 8:15pm

This is the question that nobody is discussing. Why? The party leader isn’t the party CEO. He is also the Opposition leader (or Prime Minister), and for that he needs a seat in parliament.

Joseph Muscat faced this very dilemma in 2008, but he found a sitting duck in the gullible and highly vulnerable Joseph Cuschieri, who was persuaded to give up his seat (he had been a member of parliament for 10 years) so that Muscat, who hadn’t stood for election, could be co-opted into it.

Cuschieri’s bio describes this as an “altruistic resignation”, but in reality he was put on the Labour Party pay-roll as compensation.

This was not enough for him, and he spent the next three years agitating for suitable recognition of his great sacrifice. When Malta got its ‘sixth seat’ in the European Parliament in 2011, and it went to the Labour Party, Cuschieri was silenced by being funnelled off into it.

When that ended in 2014, Cuschieri still thought he had been given short weight on his pound of flesh, and lobbied for more, so – barely able to communicate and with no idea of protocol or international relations – he was appointed Malta’s ambassador to Greece while senior career diplomats languished at a desk at the Foreign Ministry. He remains in Athens.

When Reno Bugeja last night on TVM – or was it Rachel Attard this morning on The Malta Independent’s In Depth? – asked Adrian Delia how he plans to get round the thorny problem of having no seat in parliament, I was all ears for his reply.

“The party has mechanisms to deal with this,” he said. His interviewer did not press him on what those mechanisms might be, which is unfortunate because there are none.

The Nationalist Party has never faced a situation in which it elects a leader who has no seat in parliament and who cannot be sworn in to the Constitutional role of leader of the Opposition

Eddie Fenech Adami was co-opted into parliament as an ordinary backbencher in 1969. When he became Nationalist Party leader in 1977, it was as a member of parliament of eight years’ standing, having been elected in 1971 and again in 1976 and with the co-option long since irrelevant, so he was able to take up his Constitutional role with no such problems.

Adrian Delia, on the other hand, will have to do what Muscat did: find the weakest Nationalist backbencher MP and persuade him (because the women will send him to hell) to give up his seat, using plenty of carrots that he will still be feeding to the ‘victim’ nine or 10 years down the line. It’s either that or hope that Simon Busuttil will fall on his sword for Adrian Delia.

The Labour Party has no ‘mechanism’ either, as we have seen. Its last three party leaders were co-opted to parliament, but it was only Muscat who had to be co-opted because he had been elected leader and couldn’t become Leader of the Opposition.

Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici was co-opted to parliament in 1982 and became Labour leader (and Prime Minister) two years later. Alfred Sant was co-opted to parliament in 1987 and became Labour leader (and Opposition leader) in 1992.

If I had the resources of a newsroom, my big story right now would be contacting each of the Nationalist MPs and asking them whether they are willing to give up their seat to Adrian Delia. I might do it in between one thing and another – and I won’t delete the swear words unless I’m told they’re off the record.

Which Nationalist MP is going to be willing to give his seat in parliament to Adrian Delia, just for the sheer hell of it?