Newly-elected Nationalist Party deputy leader Alex Perici Calascione would have voted in favour of the IVF law amendments last month but he does not feel that the three MPs who voted against the bill were deliberately trying to rebel against the party.
“The amendments that the PN proposed fundamentally changed the original law drafted by the government.
“I consequently agree with those who voted in favour of the law and I would have done the same,” he told Times of Malta in a short interview at his home the morning after he was elected.
“But that doesn’t mean that by voting against it, Adrian Delia, Alex Borg and Ivan Bartolo were rebelling or voluntarily going against the party to spite it. They only did what they thought was right in their conscience.”
Last month, parliament approved the controversial amendments to the IVF law.
Both parties voted in favour of the law, except for the three Nationalist MPs, who insisted it went against their conscience.
Perici Calascione, a lawyer by profession, former president of the PN’s executive committee and party treasurer, was elected deputy leader of the Nationalist Party in a one-horse race on Saturday, securing 90 per cent of the vote.
He obtained 976 votes in favour and 104 votes against his nomination.
The election was held after the current two deputy leaders – Robert Arrigo and David Agius – decided not to contest.
On his first day in office today, Perici Calascione will start “taking stock of the situation and not just the reality that the media headlines frequently portray, but the other reality” – of the hundreds of genuine people who work tirelessly for the party, he said.
“I do understand why the headlines point out the divisions, because the divisions are there, and sometimes they make more noise than they should,” he said.
“But focusing on just that reality is a great disservice to so many other people and their families who are doing a good job and are working passionately within the party structures.
“These people are inspired by our values and want to contribute, but they feel like their work is constantly overshadowed by the other stories that make the headlines.”
In the weeks following the PN’s staggering defeat in the March general election, at least two of Bernard Grech’s top aides stepped down from their roles and others, like Jason Azzopardi, Mario Galea, Emma Portelli Bonnici and former deputy leader Arrigo resigned from the party or hit out at it, claiming the party marginalised them or treated them unfairly.
In his speech on Saturday, Arrigo said he was sidelined and deeply hurt by the party, and that he was told that he was only good to raise money.
“These things should never happen. Never again. We can’t accept those things if we want to bring the party back on its feet,” he told supporters, before addressing Perici Calascione.
“Please be your own man, please do it right,” he told him.
Perici Calascione was reluctant to comment on specific cases but insisted these issues should be addressed.
He acknowledged the party was still reeling from internal disputes but said such divisions exist in every organisation, even in the Labour party, though it does not show as much.
“Sometimes, the people who express themselves publicly do it to send a message to a particular individual or group of people who might have hurt them.
“We must understand why these people felt what they felt when they were in the party. It is only then that we can effectively address the issues.”
He would not clearly say whether he would be comfortable with Franco Debono and Jason Azzopardi re-joining the party, insisting that he is friends with both of them and respects them for their work and intellect, but it is not his decision to take.
“It is the party, through its statute and structures, that must decide, and I will be happy with whatever the party decides, as long as it is done through the correct channels,” he said.
He did suggest, however, that he feels Debono’s history with the party stopped when they parted ways 10 years ago.
Debono had his own great value and he would continue to follow what he said and wrote, he said.
As for Azzopardi, he was a great contributor to the party and the country, even in times when he was receiving threats, and his work was not acknowledged as much as it should be.
Perici Calascione said he could see Grech winning the next general election but only with the support of the party.
“Nobody wins elections on their own. No man can carry this by himself,” he said.
“The result of the last election was not a message to Bernard Grech. I believe his first term started now, after the election. So yes, we can win the election but we must have all hands on deck.”
Perici Calascione, 60, will be the only deputy leader after the party reduced the number of deputy leaders from two to one following recent changes to its statute.
He also contested but failed to get elected in this year’s general election and had run for party leader in 2017.
He will be working side by side with Grech, who was re-elected as party leader after the election.
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