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MT 23 July 2017

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 23 JULY 2017 2 News A PN General Council meeting from 2016, where MPs, party candidates, and party committees get together. The composition of the Council gathers its strength from the larger towns where committees hand-pick any additional councillors to make up the numbers that are supposed to represent large sectional committees. This could be a determining factor as to where votes will sway. Party vs committees – the PN's internal division on leadership candidates PAUL COCKS AS the four candidates vying to succeed Simon Busuttil as leader of the Nationalist Party met for coffee in Valletta at a staged media photo opportunity, there was more than coffee brew- ing at the party's headquarters and within local committees. Lawyer Adrian Delia, MP Chris Said, outgo- ing party treasurer Alex Perici Calascione and former MP Frank Portelli were pictured talking and joking with each other, seemingly immune to the machinations, strategising and intrigue that the leadership contest has generated be- hind the scenes. MaltaToday has learned that a concerted ef- fort is underway to pressure and convince the members of the PN sectional committees – and their representatives on the party's general council – to vote for either of two of the candi- dates: Delia and Said. A number of members of various sectional committees, which group the committees for each district, have confirmed that the Dar Centrali is pushing for Said to replace Busut- til, with some administration officials going as far as to claim that if Delia were to win, every- thing would change, including the composition of the sectional committees (despite this being outside the remit of party HQ). But the word from some sectional commit- tees is that the pressure from Pietà is being shrugged off and that many committee mem- bers intend to vote for 'new blood' at the helm of the PN, following two consecutive election drubbings at the hands of the Labour Party. The General Council will meet on the first weekend of September to elect two candidates (out of the four nominees), to go forward to face an election by the PN's paid-up members, totaling some 22,000, on 16 September. The General Council is composed of: mem- bers of the party executive committee, the parliamentary group, local councillors, mem- bers appointed by the party on administrative councils, representatives of the sectional com- mittees and the localities, the Gozo regional committee, the voting members of the execu- tive committees of the party's youth section (MZPN), women's section (MNPN), Solidar- jetà Haddiema PN, pensioners' section, SME Forum, the Equal Opportunities Forum, the Professionals' Forum, as well as all the party candidates in the last general election, candi- dates for the last European Parliament elec- tion, all former members of Parliament and MEPs and all former party officials. But the representatives of all the localities, in- cluding the sectional committees, make up the largest bloc of voters by far. Each locality appoints a representative for every 500 eligible voters in the locality: in the last General Council, there were 1,399 party members representing the localities. And this is where most of the internal poli- ticking is focused on. Much like the College of Voters in the US presidential election, the localities have dif- ferent numbers of representatives, according to the voting population. This makes for an un-level playing field, with some larger locali- ties yielding much greater voting power than smaller towns and villages. In the last Council, Birkirkara had the highest number of voting representatives, 69, followed by Mosta with 59, Qormi (56), Zabbar (52), Sliema (46), St Paul's Bay (46) and Naxxar (42). For the candidates, this means that if they can manage to win over most of the committees in the larger localities – and therefore their votes in the council – this could go a long way to- wards garnering enough votes to make it into the final two. For an outsider like Delia, the vote of the lo- calities' representatives could be crucial, espe- cially if the party machine is really pushing for Said. Sources have confirmed that already the scene is set in many of the larger localities. Birkirkara is Delia's home-town, he being the popular president of Birkirkara FC as well. One member of the sectional committee told MaltaToday that since the representatives for the Council are chosen directly by the commit- tee, not through an election or selection, they are making sure to select people they know will vote Delia on the day. Mosta, Qormi, Naxxar and Sliema also seem to have already hedged their bets on Delia, be- sides other smaller localities like Marsaskala, Hamrun and Fgura. Said, on the other hand, seems to have the backing of the St Paul's Bay, Mellieha, Rabat and Siggiewi representatives, as well as a num- ber of localities in the south and south-east. The 107 representatives of Gozo at the mo- ment still seem to be equally split between the two, despite Gozo being Said's home district. MaltaToday has learned that many of "Giovan- na Debono's people" are pushing for the rep- resentatives to vote for Delia, but Said's strong support on the sister island appears to be put- ting up a good resistance. The top 20 localities by number of votes in the general council Birkirkara 69 Mosta 59 Qormi 56 Zabbar 52 Sliema 46 St Paul's Bay 46 Naxxar 42 Fgura 40 Zejtun 39 San Gwann 38 Marsaskala 36 Rabat 36 Zebbug 35 Zurrieq 33 Attard 33 Hamrun 32 Siggiewi 30 Tarxien 29 Swieqi 29 Paola 28 The strength of the General Council lies in the hand-picked councillors by party committees from the larger towns PHOTO RAY ATTARD PN leadership election

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