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MaltaToday survey | Panamagate sinks Konrad Mizzi to one notch above Joe Mizzi

Electorate rewards government on economy, health and education, but punishes Konrad Mizzi, who loses positive ratings amongst Labour voters, down from 77% to 55%

james
James Debono
20 November 2016, 8:30am
Last updated on 21 November 2016, 7:41am
OPM Minister Konrad Mizzi's (L) positive ranking shrinks by 18 points • Transport Minister Joe Mizzi remains the least positively rated minister
OPM Minister Konrad Mizzi's (L) positive ranking shrinks by 18 points • Transport Minister Joe Mizzi remains the least positively rated minister
This year’s Rate the Minister survey shows that Panama, transport and the environment, are the Labour government’s Achilles heel, while education, the economy and health are its strong assets. 

The survey, in which respondents were asked to rate each government minister’s performance, and conducted among 500 respondents, was carried out in the second week of November.

Despite seeing a small two-point improvement in his rating transport minister Joe Mizzi remains the least positively rated Minister in MaltaToday’s ‘rate the minister’ survey. 

The survey also shows Konrad Mizzi, in his role as minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, sinking from fifth place, when he was still minister for health and energy, to the penultimate position, after seeing his positive rating shrink by 18 points.

Chris Fearne, Konrad Mizzi’s replacement as health minister, emerges from the survey as the government’s most popular minister. Fearne also strikes a chord with Nationalist voters, 34% of whom judge his performance positively despite the ongoing controversy on the partial privatisation of the health service.

But while the electorate has warmed to newcomer Fearne, it shuns the comeback of Manuel Mallia, who was fired from the home affairs ministry in the wake of a shooting incident involving his driver. Mallia, who made a return to the cabinet as minister for competitiveness in the wake of a reshuffle after Panamagate, shares the penultimate position with Konrad Mizzi. 

Another chief casualty in the survey is justice minister Owen Bonnici who has slipped 11 points. Of particular concern to Bonnici, who lost a bid to become party deputy leader, is that he has also lost eight points among Labour voters. But his rival in the deputy leadership contest, economy minister Chris Cardona has also lost six points overall and five points among Labour voters.

Cardona, who won the deputy leadership despite promising the Nationalists “to hit back with an axe” if “you hit us with a sword”, has lost eight points among PN voters.

In an indication that Leo Brincat’s low ratings in previous surveys reflected a widespread perception of the government’s lack of sensitivity to environmental concerns, his successor José Herrera gets the same positive rating as his predecessor (30%).

The survey indicates that ongoing uncertainty on Air Malta has taken a toll on tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis, who has slipped by nine points even if he remains one of the three most popular ministers in the Cabinet, just ahead of finance minister Edward Scicluna, who gained three points after last year and surprisingly emerges from the survey as the most positively rated minister among Labour voters. Zammit Lewis’s losses can be attributed to a 16-point drop among PN voters who in this survey were less inclined to rate any minister positively. In fact Zammit Lewis only loses two points among Labour voters.

In contrast to the losses made by Labour newcomers like Owen Bonnici, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Edward Zammit Lewis, the survey shows veteran Labour politicians like George Vella, Edward Scicluna, Evarist Bartolo and Louis Grech consolidating their position. Bartolo who was the only Labour minister to publicly call on Konrad Mizzi to resign, has replaced Zammit Lewis as the positively rated minister among PN voters. The survey was held before the latest allegations of graft in the award of direct orders by the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools. 

Louis Grech has also seen a 10-point increase in his positive ratings. His rating among Labour voters has also increased by 15 points. This may indicate that following Panamagate the electorate is banking on more reassuring figures on the government’s bench. 

Panama, traffic and environmental blues

Only 24% of respondents in MaltaToday’s latest survey judge the performance of transport minister Joe Mizzi as positive, up from 22% last year and down from 52% in February 2014. 

Amid increased concern on traffic congestion and the state of public transport, Mizzi’s performance was judged negatively by 37% (up from 34%) of respondents and ‘so-so’ by 27%. 

After his demotion from energy minister to a Cabinet post without a specific portfolio, Konrad Mizzi is just five points ahead of Joe Mizzi and in the same position as Manuel Mallia. Mizzi has not only lost his position among the top brass, but is 28 points less popular than he was in February 2014 when his performance was judged positively by a staggering 57%, second only to Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, before she was appointed President. 

While last year Konrad Mizzi was the second most popular minister among Labour voters, 77% of whom judged his performance positively, in this survey only 55% of Labour voters rate his performance positively. But among the Labour cohort Mizzi remains more popular than José Herrera, Anton Refalo, Manwel Mallia and Joe Mizzi. Among PN voters Konrad Mizzi is the least popular Minister.

Environment minister José Herrera retained the same positive rating as Leo Brincat in last year’s survey (30%) but saw the percentage of respondents who judge his performance negatively increase by two points.

Survey confirms ‘feel-good’ factor on economy 

On the other hand, after the budget finance minister Edward Scicluna has seen his positive rating rise by three points over last year, 14 points over 2014. 

Despite holding what is traditionally seen as the most unpopular portfolios, Scicluna is now the fourth most popular minister, surpassing social solidarity minister Michael Farrugia, justice minister Owen Bonnici, civil liberties minister Helena Dalli and home affairs minister Carmelo Abela. Under the previous (Gonzi) administration, finance minister Tonio Fenech was consistently the second least popular PN minister after transport and infrastructure minister Austin Gatt.

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis may have stumbled over Air Malta but still retains his position among the top brass. Zammit Lewis’s popularity indicates the general satisfaction with the tourism sector. Chris Fearne’s and Evarist Bartolo’s strong positive ratings of 52% and 51% indicate that the government is delivering on health and education.

But with an approval rate of just 38% social solidarity minister Michael Farrugia remains far behind Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, who as social solidarity minister was Labour’s most popular minister. 

Other laggards in the Cabinet are Carmelo Abela, who lost seven points over last year’s survey, and Anton Refalo, who lost three points over last year. In an indication of the ambiguous nature of his ministry, 30% replied don’t know when asked about Refalo’s performance.

In a sign of deterioration over last year, six ministers improved their positive ratings while eight ministers have lost points. Deputy prime minister Louis Grech saw the greatest increase in positive rating (10 points), while Konrad Mizzi has seen the greatest dip (-18 points). 

Owen Bonnici was the other main casualty, losing 11 points over last year, seeing his positive rating decline by 13 points over two years, slipping from third to ninth place. The only woman minister, civil liberties minister Helena Dalli, has remained stable in sixth place after being judged positively by 41%.

Methodology 

The survey was held between Monday 7 and Thursday, 10 November. The results were weighed to reflect the age and gender balance of the population. 881 respondents were contacted. 500 respondents accepted to participate in the survey. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.3 points

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...