Home > Opinion > After two months of further instability, this contest farce won’t be funny any more

After two months of further instability, this contest farce won’t be funny any more

by Owen Bonnici – The Malta Independent

Had last Thursday Parliament voted on a vote of confidence put forward by the Prime Minister, the same result we had last time would have led to a defeat of the government

 It is really an exercise in numbers. The Constitution sets a threshold which needs to be reached in the case of a vote of no-confidence and, contrariu sensu, in the case of a vote of confidence which is 50%+1 of all members of the House.

Now I know that there are some who argue that a Speaker elected from outside the House should be included as a member with all the other Members but really they are speaking nonsense, so I would like to stick to the proper threshold of 50%+1 of all members of the House.

Currently there are 69 members of the House so in order to pass a motion of no-confidence you need 35 MPs who vote in favour of the no-confidence motion. Similarly in order to pass a motion of confidence you need 35 votes in favour of that motion.

This is an extraordinary issue we are discussing here and that is why the Constitution sets this important threshold. In normal business you technically just need a majority of MPs who happen to be in the House at that moment in time (1 in favour, 0 against and 68 MPs staying at home cooking dinner would be enough for a piece of ordinary legislation to pass). But in this case and in the case of amendments to the Constitution itself, the Constitution sets thresholds, which vary in the instance of changes to the Constitution.

So last Thursday, had it been a vote of confidence – like the one which the Prime Minister tabled only a few weeks ago when Franco Debono abstained on the motion of censure against Minister-turned-electoral manager Austin Gatt – with exactly the same result it would not have reached the 35 votes it needed to pass and today we would be speaking of a legal and factual downfall of government.

And that is why what happened on Thursday – when the two groups in Parliament came head to head in the level of votes – was no ordinary matter. True, Parliament technically has not shown the red card to the Prime Minister but it is also true that the end result was a draw and that, more importantly, the Prime Minister in the mother of all motions failed to master a working majority.

And that is saying something! That is really saying something! Does all this talk of governing without a majority ring a bell?

Indeed, the current Prime Minister is still in office purely because he is relying on the working assumption that since no motion of no-confidence has been passed he still retains the majority of all Members of the House. Which, as we know, factually is not true because Franco Debono has clearly called for his resignation and has abstained last Thursday.

Lawrence Gonzi is clutching at this working assumption in order to keep hold of power. The problem is that our country and economy need much more than a working assumption to have the required level of stability in order to counter the gales and bad weather which are hitting Europe mercilessly in the economic sphere.

Immediately after the vote, we started hearing various PN apologists saying that Labour has lost (sic!) and failed. We heard deputy PM Tonio Borg saying that what we have in front of us is “different business” whatever that means. Then PN Whip David Agius went one further and stressed that after the vote the Prime Minister emerged stronger than before!

Truly a case of people who fail to wake up and smell the coffee, or pretend not to.

Fast forward 24 hours and in comes Lawrence Gonzi who, after comparing last Thursday’s vote with the Partnership rebaħ rubbish (I fail to understand the logic, but anyway) decides that it is high time to open a leadership contest within the Nationalist Party. He stressed that he would participate in this contest and said that he would be ready to serve with loyalty under any other leader should another candidate manage to win this contest against him.

I really pitied the PN kunsilliera for being taken for this ride. Let me guess who will be the winner… hmmm… let me see? It’s so hard to think it out… Oh! … I think it will be Gonzi!

What a waste of time! The truth is that Lawrence Gonzi rather than submitting himself for a contest among the PN kunsilliera of the “Iċċedilhomx Gonzi” fame should have submitted himself for a vote of confidence. That is where the real beef is – Gonzi has lost the majority in Parliament where one of his 35 loyal soldiers disbanded himself from the group. On a General Council level Franco Debono would be only one out of I don’t know how many hundreds of kunsilliera who probably are the only people left in the island that believe that Lawrence Gonzi should be knighted for taking a €500 increase by stealth.

Of course this is all a tactic to gain time. They told us that this “contest” – which I am sure will turn out to be the joke of the century – might take two months. Oh really? And what about the majority Lawrence Gonzi has lost in Parliament? What on earth will change at the end of this “contest”?

Much will happen in those two months. Austin Gatt will have two months within which to do all the work which Pawlu Borg Olivier has failed to do, Castille will switch on the propaganda machinery and start dishing out pjaċiri mhux drittijiet. I think it will all backfire because all this imploding and infighting within PN will keep growing in proportions as time goes by, but really it’s their business.

And in the meantime, while the PN will be using those two months to try and recuperate the core vote back, our economy will feel the consequence of this instability.

And that is where all this farce won’t be funny any more. Jobs are at stake, the stability of the whole country is at stake, the future of our children is at stake.

Lawrence Gonzi does not care about what might happen as a result of this instability. He only cares about clutching to his seat in Castille so that he does not end up in the has-been section of our political studies books.

Truth is that the end of GonziPN is inevitable.

Dr Owen Bonnici is Labour spokesman for Tertiary Education and Culture

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Categories: Opinion
  1. Joseph Cardona
    February 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Fellowmen, citizens of the Maltese Islands, lend me your impartial ears…….
    GonziPN is erecting a Carnivalesque House of Representatives. Our institutions are
    falling apart. The Constitution needs a thorough facelift. Our unique Grand Harbour
    can shelter and accommodate warships carrying nukes, and ready to take a decisive
    part in warfare and any other type of conflict. That’s independent and non-aligned Malta.

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