Three Nationalist Party 13th district candidates have revealed that they have been asked by PN Secretary General Clyde Puli to contest the co-option process to replace the seat vacated by David Stellini.
Joseph Ellis, Maria Portelli and Ryan Mercieca said they have declined the offer.
While the move was seen by some as an act of defiance towards the party leadership, party insiders said there was more than meets the eye.
A source said Puli had contacted all five unelected candidates on the 13th district in order to avoid a situation where the party could be accused of not having shown interest in them.
Maria Portelli and Joseph Ellis
“There were already rumblings and talk to the effect that, if Kevin Cutajar was the only one to contest, the party would be accused of ignoring the other candidates who had contested the district in the 2017 general election,” the source said.
“It is clear that the candidates will decline the offer, as they believe that Kevin Cutajar should take the seat. But at least they have been asked.”
PN political coordinator Jean Pierre Debono narrowly beat Cutajar in a vote held during a meeting of the PN’s executive committee last Saturday. But the meeting was marred by the resignation of executive committee president Mark Anthony Cutajar, who later said the process had been vitiated.
Sammut also asked the entire party leadership to step down.
The controversy also led to the resignation of party treasurer David Camilleri, who, along with David Stellini, should not have had a vote.
On Monday, Jean Pierre Debono renounced his co-option to Parliament, accusing certain factions within the PN of turning their guns on him for having previously given up his seat for Adrian Delia.
In a Facebook post, Maria Portelli thanked Clyde Puli for having personally contacted her and offering her to contest the co-option process, but said she felt she could not accept. “It is my opinion that the seat should be filled by Kevin Cutajar because he deserves it. As such, I join all my fellow Gozitan friends in giving full support to Kevin Cutajar,” Portelli said.
Lawyer Joe Ellis published a letter he has sent to the PN Secretary General. He also thanked Puli for the offer but said the “natural and morally correct” choice in the circumstances is Kevin Cutajar.
“Cutajar has undisputed intellectual and moral qualities despite his disability,” Ellis said, adding that Cutajar’s vote result after the casual election that had been held to fill the seat vacated by Marthese Portelli on the 13th district placed him next in line for Stellini’s seat.
He also suggested that, in similar situations in the future, the party would seek alternative methods of filling a vacant seat through consultation between the party members.
Ryan Mercieca said he was not someone to court confrontation but he had no intention of asking the party to contest the co-option. While thanking those who had shown interest in him, he was declining the offer in the spirit of unity and reconciliation. Mercieca said he believed in Kevin Cutajar’s abilities and the circumstances require that he is the one who takes Stellini’s seat.
PN Executive Committee to meet again on Saturday
The Nationalist Party’s Executive Committee will meet again on Saturday morning to decide on who gets the parliamentary seat vacated by Gozitan MP David Stellini.
The committee will also be discussing the European Parliament and local council election results.
While it was previously reported that the committee cannot choose Stellini’s replacement before the party elects a new president of the executive, a new president of the administrative council and a new treasurer, PN sources explained that the process can still go ahead. It is understood that someone will be appointed to preside over today’s meeting.
The nominations for the recently vacated posts have not yet opened and, when they do, the nominations will be open for a five-day period.
On the other hand, the PN’s Parliamentary Group will meet early on Monday afternoon. MPs are expected to discuss the party’s internal woes during that meeting.
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