As predicted the Nationalist Party has a new leader, Bernard Grech. Saturday’s election result proved that all surveys pointing to his victory were correct. He won 69% of the tesserati vote. That is quite a feat, seeing that Robert Abela managed about 57% of the delegate vote in his electoral victory over Chris Fearne.
A few months back, Bernard Grech was just another ‘good speaker’ many times in favour of the Nationalist Party during political debates. He was a new face who decided to challenge the embattled Adrian Delia. He had gathered the support of the ‘rebel’ faction of PN parliamentarians, including some who were seen as Delia’s stalwarts, like Kristy Debono and Hermann Schiavone.
Winning the election was an easy enough task for Bernard, even against the recently revealed Delia’s social media trolls’ groups. His real travails start now. First he has to contend with the few MPs who remained loyal to Adrian Delia. He has to rope them in. He promised that he will work to bring unity in the Party and this will be his first mammoth task. He has to ensure that he gets Delia’s ‘tesserati’ support, many of whom have already expressed their stance of ‘no Delia, no vote.’ Grech has to prove that he is capable of changing this.
He promised that Adrian Delia can be part of his team, even if in a different role. Can he get the embittered former leader to join him? I very much doubt it. It would take some sort of miracle to bring him properly on board. Will Delia work with people like Jason Azzopardi and Beppe Fenech Adami? I don’t think so. Will he resign from Parliament? How will his small group of MPs react to the new leader? We will have to see if the Delia faction in the likes of Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Edwin Vassallo will be ready to cooperate with their new leader. Most probably they would ‘say’ they support their leader, although I have my doubts about some who in 2017 stabbed Simon Busuttil in his back.
Bernard Grech faces a herculean task ahead of him. He now has to unite the two different factions, be very cautious about the shadow cabinet so as not to irk anyone but definitely has to choose the best above the rest. Once that is over, he has to start looking at the election, which can be just a few months away. Without any doubt Robert Abela will choose the best time for Labour to announce the next general elections. Recent surveys showed that the gap between the two parties diminished considerably with Grech as leader.
Although he did make mistakes like the tax arrears and the ‘Greek’ nationality clip, he managed to get back a large number of disgruntled nationalists after they left the PN when Adrian Delia took the helm. Adrian Delia’s biggest mistake of asking Simon Busuttil to resign from Parliament on the advice of Joseph Muscat was one of the reasons that many left the party. A week before the election, Delia did in fact admit that he was mistaken when he took that decision but his acknowledgement was too late. Many understood this to be a facile tactic before the crucial voting process.
Bernard Grech managed to get many nationalists back. The recent surveys had been showing a consistently large difference between the two contestants. This was not a fluke. This was a real reaction of the disgruntled nationalist who are ready to join the flock once the incumbent Delia is removed.
It is not known if the Delia faction will be ready to accept him as the leader of the PN even if the new leader election was held because of a motion presented to the General Council by Adrian Delia. But at least he knows that he has the support of the majority of the parliamentary group, the executive committee, the council general and the tesserati. This could be a boost for his efforts to try and unite the party.
If Bernard Grech manages that, then the chances of the PN closing the gap with the PL improves and, with all the chaos that is emerging from Courts it may yet have the slightest possibility of winning the next election. The Partit Nazzjonalista can see a twinkle of light at the end on the long dark tunnel. A new dawn perhaps.