Even in the face of Franco Debono's apparent disloyalty, Lawrence Gonzi believes that given time, he will be able to turn the tide back over the next months.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has decided to plod on and hold the general election in 2013, as plans for an early election were put on the back-burner when it became clear backbencher Franco Debono will simply abstain on parliamentary votes, fearing early elections would bring about his own political demise.
The Prime Minister does not believe Debono will vote against government, even though the Ghaxaq-based parliamentarian had vowed he would once the Cabinet reshuffle took place. Gonzi is strengthened by the fact that in 1998 the Labour administration survived for a number of months with the casting vote of Speaker Miriam Spiteri Debono.
Polls have shown that the present status of the Prime Minister is at one of his lowest points ever with a 13-point difference between the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party, according to a MaltaToday survey.
Yet the Prime Minister appears to believe that given time, he will be able to turn the tide back over the next months. He is banking on the finalisation of some major projects which are expected to serve as an opportune publicity platform for him.
Immediate attention has also been given to the way the administration reacts to news stories about its performance. It appears an instantaneous reaction to press stories is being coordinated by experienced officials relying on a very quick and effective response system. On two recent occasions - the response to a homophobic attack and a protest against ACTA - the Prime Minister personally fronted a press conference to announce policy changes, but in which journalists were not allowed to ask questions.
The Prime Minister is paying special attention in emphasising the lack of electoral proposals from the Labour camp and that under his premiership Malta was capable of avoiding the economic downturn in Europe.
Against this scenario, Gonzi still has to tolerate Debono's disloyalty. This has catalysed an economic slow-down in the country due to the 'parliamentary instability' while both political parties are galvanising their machinery for a possible election.
Even more sinister is the evident origin of Debono's 'rebellion', nurtured primarily by the very fact that Debono was not offered a ministerial role, and that he was sidelined by the Prime Minister. Sources close to Gonzi told MaltaToday: "His erratic personality made it impossible for the Prime Minister to even consider him for such a sensitive post."
Insiders told MaltaToday that before the fall-out between the Prime Minister and Debono, who also publicly stated he is far more capable than his colleague and recently appointed justice minister Chris Said, was constantly pestering the Prime Minister with innumerable phone calls and messages on a daily basis at unearthly hours.
The initial public sympathy towards Debono is now fast evaporating, as it is replaced with contempt for the man who promised to bring a government down but then abstained, while still chastising the Prime minister for his 'autocratic' style of leadership.
Debono's political career may be over as he falls short of pinpointing by name those in Lawrence Gonzi's entourage whom he constantly refers to as the 'clique' responsible for 'oligarchic' policies: although the parliamentarian has on several occasions privately prompted names to the delight of newsrooms.