MaltaToday survey | Busuttil welcomed by PN voters, 46% believe ‘Malta Tagħna Lkoll’ being honoured

More than two-thirds of PN voters convinced that new leader Simon Busuttil will make the party a stronger party.

James Debono
13 May 2013, 12:00am

A MaltaToday survey on public appointments and the election of Simon Busuttil as PN leader presents bad news for both parties. The survey on political public appointments reveals the first cracks in the high level of consent enjoyed by the newly elected government, with the majority clearly not impressed by the appointment of former Labour General-Secretary Jason Micallef as the Chairman of the Valletta 2018 Foundation.


Respondents, especially switchers, expressed a more positive assessment of Franco Debono's appointment as coordinator of the constitutional convention and recognise that an element of meritocracy pervades some public appointments.

Main Findings
  • Only 23% see Jason Micallef's appointment as V18 chairman positively
  • 38.2% of PL voters unable to express an opinion on Micallef's appointment
  • 46% see Franco Debono's appointment as coordinator of constitutional convention positively
  • 52% of PN voters see Debono's appointment negatively
  • Only 7% of PN voters approve Micallef's appointment, while 17% welcome Debono's appointment
  • 65% of switchers approve Debono's appointment, but only 35% approve Micallef's appointment
  • 20% of PL voters see Micallef's appointment negatively or not so positively.

On the other side of the coin, the survey reveals that newly elected leader Simon Busttil has strengthened his position among Nationalist voters, with more than two-thirds convinced that he will make the PN a stronger party. But the vast majority of non-PN voters, including switchers (who deserted the party in the last general election) think that the election of Busuttil as leader has weakened the PN.

This emerges from a MaltaToday survey conducted between Monday and Thursday.

While two thirds of Nationalist Party voters think that Simon Busuttil will strengthen their party, only 7% of the switchers (PN voters in 2008 who voted PL in last March's general election) and 8% of Labour voters think likewise.

The survey shows a divergence between the frame of mind of Nationalist voters and other categories of voters in their perception of the new PN leader. While only 29% of PN voters think that Busuttil will weaken the party or leave it in the same state it is in today, an overwhelming 56% of all respondents have the same fears.

This emerges from a MaltaToday survey conducted between Monday and Thursday.

It suggests that Busuttil now faces a big challenge in opening up his party to voters who abandoned the party, a priority which the new PN leader underlined in his first speech.

Moreover while half of Nationalist voters think Busuttil was the best choice for the party to reach out to those who deserted it in the last general election, only 7% of the switchers and 6% of Labourites think likewise.

This survey confirms the same trend which emerged before Busuttil's election, which saw a majority of Nationalist voters opting for the former MEP as the party's next leader and a majority of Labourites and switchers preferring Mario de Marco.

In fact the result among councillors in the first round of the election reflected the support the two frontrunners enjoyed among Nationalist voters.

Overall only 31% of respondents think that Simon Busuttil will strengthen the Nationalist Party, while 45% think that under his leadership it will weaken. 

This can be attributed to Busuttil's unpopularity among Labour voters and the switchers, arising from Busuttil's baptism by fire as the party's deputy leader during a divisive electoral campaign.

And significantly, a segment of PN voters in last March's election remain unconvinced by their new leader.

In fact 16% of PN voters think that Busuttil will weaken the party, while 12% think that it will remain as stong as it is today. Considering the result of the last election, this is far from an optimistic forecast. Moreover, one in every four Nationalist voters thinks that Busuttil was not the best choice to reach out to voters who abandoned the party in the last general election.

De Marco favoured as deputy leader

Significantly, voters of all political hues consider Mario de Marco as the best choice as the party's deputy leader. Respondents were not prompted by the contestants' names, because nominations for the post are still to be presented. The survey was held before the announcement that Busuttil will be proposing changes to the statute which would see the PN having two deputy leaders instead of one.

This indicates that a Busuttil-de Marco team will go down well with both current PN voters and other categories of voters, including switchers.

Among PN voters, an absolute majority of 51.4% would like de Marco as the party's next deputy leader. Only 39% of PN voters preferred de Marco as the party's leader in a survey conducted before last Sunday's election, when the former tourism minister received the support of 38% of councillors. This suggests that a number of those who supported Simon Busuttil in the leadership race would now like to see de Marco as his second in command.

It also shows that de Marco's declaration that he did not intend to contest the post but was willing to accept any role offered by the party has not discouraged respondents from mentioning de Marco's name as the ideal deputy leader.

On the other hand, Beppe Fenech Adami, who has already indicated his interest in contesting, is only supported by 14% of PN voters and 10% of Labour voters.

A relative majority of PL voters, who perceived de Marco as the anti-establishment candidate in the PN, also prefer de Marco as deputy leader. The switchers from the last general election express the same preference.

Appointment of Jason Micallef

Micallef's appointment as chairman of the committee in charge of preparations for Valletta's term as Europe's capital of culture was decreed by the Nationalist opposition to be a divisive appointment and subjects the country to ridicule.

Micallef was appointed by Parliamentary Secretary Jose Herrera to replace architect David Felice, who will retain an advisory role. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has defended this appointment amidst reports that he was not comfortable with the choice.

Significantly, Micallef's appointment was deemed positive by only 41% of 2013 PL voters. While among Labour voters one in every five expressed a negative or not so positive judgement, 38% could not express an opinion. The high level of 'don't knows' among PL voters suggests a sense of discomfort at an appointment which contrasts with the PL's taghna lkoll platform and promise of meritocracy.

Only 35% of the switchers, who changed voting allegiance in the 2013 election, expressed a positive judgement of Micallef's appointment.

Franco Debono favoured by switchers

On the other hand, the respondents, especially switchers and Labour voters, were more positive about Labour's other controversial appointment, that of Franco Debono as coordinator of the constitutional convention, to be entrusted with rewriting the Constitution.

The PN decreed the appointment as a divisive one, in view of Debono's role in bringing down the Gonzi government and the need for consensus on constitutional change. The PN described Debono's appointment as "a divisive decision intended to insult the opposition for its own partisan interests."

The survey confirms Debono's popularity among the switchers. In fact nearly two thirds of them consider Debono's appointment positive.

On the other hand the divisiveness of the appointment is confirmed by the negative judgement expressed by a majority, 52%, of Nationalist voters.

In fact Debono's appointment evoked a stronger reaction among Nationalist voters than Jason Micallef's. While Micallef's appointment is deemed negative by 47% of PN voters, Debono's appointment is deemed negative by 52% of PN voters.

But Debono still retains a foothold of support in his former party, with 17% of PN voters expressing a positive judgement of his appointment. This suggests that the maverick lawyer still retains a degree of respect across the political spectrum.

Government honouring meritocracy pledge

Overall the survey suggests that a relative majority of voters think that Labour is honouring the promise of greater meritocracy evoked by its Malta taghna lkoll campaign theme.

The survey came in the wake of various appointments during the previous week, which included a mixture of Labour Party candidates and supporters filling many boards, a small number of PN candidates and former MPs (like Frans Agius and George Hyzler) who will be sitting on the MTA board. A number of non-affiliated and qualified personalities have also been appointed. These included lawyer Giovanni Bonello, who will lead the justice reform commission and architect Vince Cassar, who was appointed MEPA chairman.

The non-partisan nature of some appointments was even recognised by Nationalist voters, 35% of whom replied that the new government has "not always" practised its taghna lkoll slogan. But 39% of PN voters and 16% of all respondents think that the slogan is not being practiced at all.

Significantly, one in every ten Labour voters also thinks that the Labour government has not always practised what it preached. This view is also expressed by 23% of switchers. In this pivotal category, only 39% think that Labour is practising its slogan, while 31% could not express any judgement on this central plank of Labour's campaign.

The high level of 'don't knows' among the switchers could also suggest that meritocracy is not their greatest concern. In fact more than a third of switchers expressed no opinion on Jason Micallef's appointment, and 35% favoured his appointment.


A total of 450 randomly selected respondents were contacted by telephone between Monday 6 May and Thursday 9 May. The results were weighted to reflect gender and age balance. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.6%.

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