Franco Debono votes against budget | Gonzi: 'Franco Debono is a closed chapter, he is irrelevant'

Franco Debono votes against 2013 Budget, effectively bringing down the Nationalist government. PM Gonzi expected to call on President Abela to dissolve Parliament Tuesday morning.

Lawrence Gonzi will defend his budget tonight, but faces the prospect of Nationalist MP Franco Debono voting against the budget.
Lawrence Gonzi will defend his budget tonight, but faces the prospect of Nationalist MP Franco Debono voting against the budget.

Welcome to MaltaToday's live blog - Miriam Dalli, Jurgen Balzan, Matthew Vella and Karl Stagno Navarra are reporting live from the House of Represenatives and the Office of the Prime Minister on today's crucial money bill vote.

10:28pm A bullish Gonzi: "My best is yet to come," he tells a journalist who asks him whether he is tired of all the political troubles he has had to face.

10:26pm "Malta has acquired excellent results and this is certified by the EU and credit rating agencies... we paid a political price for this. Other countries were scared of carrying out these reforms because they feared the political backlash."

10:25pm "The Opposition was once again inconsistent, it has chosen the wrong route, and everybody will have to take responsiblity for its actions."

10:21pm Gonzi is asked by MaltaToday why he presented a budget that he knew would not pass: "This budget is the economic programme for 2013. I would have been irresponsible not to present the budget. The budget means that this government will end 2012 with a deficit of 2.3% and that is further projected to go down to 1.9% in 2013 - this is the result of an EU-approved budget, and now our people and businesses can rest easy that we have a budget approved by Brussels and that is sustainble for the next year."

10:18pm "Franco Debono is a closed chapter, and so is the Budget" - Gonzi when asked about Franco Debono. "I have no regrets. Franco Debono is irrelevant." Gonzi has also defended his decision to 'stand by minister Austin Gatt' (one of the gripes elicited by Franco Debono) as a decision to "stand by stability, the country's stability."

10:16pm Gonzi has announced the election date for 9 March: tomorrow he meets his Cabinet at 9:30am to register this decision, and then he goes to the President of the Republic at 10am to schedule the dissolution of the House for the 7 January 2013.

10:15pm Here's a quick transcript of what the PM has said:

"We have served our mandate, our duty to our country, in five years of turbulence and great difficulty, which saw countries greater than us falling. I am proud to have led this party during the last five years, and that this country passed through the difficult test that proved our economic strategy was right.

"What is most important is that in these past five years we created jobs for our youth.

"I must thank [my MPs] who stood firm... I am privileged to have led this country and this party in government throughout the financial storm. We have not just the foundations we laid these past five years, but also a programme: everybody knows what this is, it's the programme clearly written in the bill of our budget, a budget which did not pass because of the Opposition's and Franco Debono's vote.

"If the Maltese people gives us its renewed trust, it will be this budget that we will implement as our programme for the first year of government. In the coming weeks we will

"You know where you stand with us. With Labour, we still don't know where we stand and what this leader's solutions are for our workers."

10:14pm We're currently at the Office of the Prime Minister, where Lawrence Gonzi has announced an election for 9 March.

9:30pm Speaking to MaltaToday minutes after the vote, MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando said "the Prime minister should now call an election as soon as possible." Asked if this marks the end of his career, Pullicino Orlando simply replied "we shall see."

9:15pm MPs trickle out of Parliament slowly. The two parties are expected to address the press in the coming minutes. Keep following MaltaToday online portal for more updates and reactions. Thank you for following our blog and good evening!

9:11pm The Budget is defeated. Franco Debono votes against the budget together with the Opposition. The Prime Minister will visit President George Abela tomorrow morning to dissolve Parliament. The country welcomes election fever.

9:10pm As all government MPs stand up to vote for Budget, Franco Debono remains seated. This gives the governmnet 34 votes. 

9:07pm Debono says that "today we are laying the foundation stone for a modern democracy. Nobody is above the law and for this reason I cannot support the government." I have the privilege and honour to bring an end to the oligarchy and vote against the budget." Debono's speech ends. The Speaker explains the voting procedure. 

9:06pm A bellicose Debono says the Public Broadcasting Services has become "the PN's club" adding that he was never given time and space to voice his opinion. 

9:04pm Debono says that the oligarchy is based on money, contacts and inherited titles. He accuses the oligarchy surrounding the PM of eating up millions of euros. He accuses the Times of being the government's mouthpiece, "manipulation at its best."

9:01pm He says that the PN planned to go to the polls in November but decided against calling the elections before the budget because it was aware it would suffer certain defeat. 

8:59pm Disrupted by Nationalist MP Mario Galea, Debono asks to be given the time to explain his motivation behind the vote which he says is very serious. Debono requests to be given time to explain himself as the Speaker asks him to conclude. 

8:58pm Debono says that he did not vote against the government in previous occasions because he wanted to give the government another chance, "however since then the oligarchy which has hijacked the government got worse." 

8:55pm He says that he cannot understand how a government ploughed ahead with the Budget despite the motion of no-confidence presented by himself hangs over Austin Gatt's head. 

8:53pm Debono cites the PN treatment of Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Jesmond Mugliett among the reasons why he will vote against the Budget. He adds that "hopefully, one day a proper reconciliation will take place." 

8:51pm Debono lists the reasons mostly centering around Austin Gatt in a chronological order, why he will vote against the Budget, giving the Prime Minister no option but to dissolve Parliament. 

8:48pm Debono says he cannot vote for the budget and he cannot vote for the government because of Austin Gatt's presence in the cabinet. "Before resigning he must pay."  

8:44pm Franco Debono is given permission to justify his actions in tonight's vote. Quoting former PM Eddie Fenech Adami, Debono says the budget is irrelevant. He goes on to say that he "cannot vote" against the budget for a plethora of reasons including the Fairmount affair, the BWSC poweer plant extension and the car park privitisation saga. "If I vote for the budget I will be giving a license to this government to plough ahead."

8:35pm The session is suspended fpor five minutes. Franco Debono is expexted to hold his speech before the vote is taken. The Parliament sitting is transformed into a social event as MPs from both sides of the House rub shoulders and chat away while drinking a cup of tea or coffee. The sitting is expected to resume in a couple of minutes. 

8:33pm His speech ends with a confident expression of confidence in the country's "courage and wisdom."The greatness of any people is measured by its ideas, values and culture. These give me confidence that the people will continue making responsible choices,"

8:29pm Gonzi's long list of thanks includes, students, workers, young people and the elderly. His low and faint voice gives away fatigue, a result of a two-hour speech and five years of internal and external struggles. 

8:27pm Gonzi says that if the tunnel between Malta and Gozo is feasible, it will be done. In his final comments, Gonzi thanks the Maltese people for supporting his government and for maintaining the values of the family, hard work and inclusion. 

8:22pm As his two-hour speech draws to an end, Gonzi lauds his government's environmental and agricultural track record. 

8:19pm As he grabs a coffee from the free of charge dispensing machine in Parliament, Franco Debono tells MaltaToday reporters that  "It has taken me months to decide of what I am to do tonight. I will address the House soon after the Prime Minister ends his speech"

8:12pm PN whip David Agius breathes a huge sigh of relief as independent MP Jeffrey Pullicino and PN rebel PM Jesmond Mugliett enter the Chamber. However, their vote could prove useless if Franco Debono stands by his words and votes against the budget. Both MPs have said they will vote in favour. 

8:09pm Gonzi has used up much of this evening's speech to highlight the risks posed by the possible election of Labour to government. In what could be his last speech as Prime Minister, Gonzi has listed his government's achievements in education, health and the economic sector while hitting out at Joseph Muscat's credibility.   

8:05pm If tonight's vote is lost by the PN government, the Prime Minister will no option but to advice the President of the Republic George Abela to dissolve Parliament. The most likely election date is 9 March, although the decision is Gonzi's prerogative. The PM has already announced that in the case of defeat in tonight's vote, he will visit the President on Tuesday morning. 

8:01pm With less then 30 minutes left to the end of the PM's speech, PN whip David Agius is busy speaking to Franco Debono. Independent MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and PN rebel Jesmond Mugliett are still absent. Agius and Labour counterpart Joe Mizzi are busy rallying the troops, making sure that all MPs are present for the vital Budget vote. 

7:58pm Gonzi says minimum wage earners can earn an additional 600 euros in six months if it attends an ETC course. This is met by murmuring from the Opposition benches.  

7:53pm The PM adds that Maltese workers remained the less taxed in Europe, even before the tax cuts announced in this Budget. He says that unlike the "socialist" Opposition, minimum wage earners will be encouraged by his government to earn more instead of "just signing a cheque and be generous with other persons' money." 

7:51pm Gonzi warns that the last time Labour was in government in 1996 it introduced 33 new taxes to do good for its decision to remove VAT. 

7:48pm As Gonzi lists the number of tax cuts and other fiscal measures undertaken by his government, including the 10% tax cut introduced in the 2013 Budget, his MPs cheer him on. ""We have achieved all this in five years, during a recession unseen for 100 years and the deficit has been reduced and will reduce again next year." 

7:42pm Gonzi turns his attention to Joseph Muscat's invitation to the current Prime Minister to inaugurate the new Parliament, deemed a waste of resources by the Opposition, and says that Muscat should also invite him to open the new Oncology Hospital, the Mcast campus and a number of other projects undertaken by the PN administration 

7:38pm As Gonzi explains the government's economic and fiscal policies, a gritty Franco Debono is busy jotting down notes. 

7:35pm Karl Stagno Navarra reports that rebel MP Franco Debono was escorted to Parliament by two CID Police officials and he entered Parliament through a side entrance. 

7:34pm Addressing Labour leader Joseph Muscat, Gonzi says: "There's nothing wrong in giving the wrong economic advice but if you show the same error of judgment in your promise to reduce the utility bills then it will spell economic disaster for Malta and I am determined not to let this happen." 

7:30pm The Prime Minister lists the austerity measures introduced by the Cypriot government and compares the two countries' deficits and unemployment rates.  

7:28pm As Gonzi warns that Muscat is putting "everybody's livelihood at risk by promising everything to everyone," the Labour leader seems amused and smiles as he listens to Gonzi's warnings.  

7:24pm Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant shares a joke with his fellow Labour MPs as Lawrence Gonzi says that Labour's hit list of mistakes include its position against the introduction of the Euro and Muscat's advice to follow the Cypriot economic model, which has recently gone in recession. 

7:20pm Gonzi warns that Labour's promise to repay the VAT car registration payments will take Malta's deficit over the 3% benchmark set by the EU. He adds that he will not allow Labour to cover up the bad advise it has dished out in the last five years. He reminds that Labour opposed EU membership and says "you were wrong! Thankfully your predictions of doom never materialised."

7:16pm Continuing his diatribe against the Opposition, Gonzi asks why the Labour Party did not spare a word for Malta's exit from the European Commission excessive deficit procedure. 

7:11pm Franco Debono defiantly walks down the aisle, inches away from the Prime Minister. He is expected to hold a passionate speech before tonight's vote. In  the meantime the Prime Minister says Joseph Muscat shares the same "hypocrisy and populism" shown by his predecessor Alfred Sant. 

7:08pm As Debono has a quick word with the Speaker Michael Frendo, Gonzi takes a dig at the Opposition leader Joseph Muscat for opposing a number of achievements including the privatisation of the Malta Drydocks and Sea Malta and the pension reform.  

7:05pm Coincidentally, as Debono took his seat, the Prime Minister admitted to having faced internal problems "but always gave priority to the national interest." 

7:01pm Surprisingly, the Opposition MPs are not displaying any disapproval to Gonzik's speech. Franco Debono enters the House. He approaches one of the Parliament clerks and takes his seat at the very far end of the government benches, close to the Speaker's seat. 

6:59pm Gonzi says that after tonight's vote, "whatever happens" a general election will be called. However he says that if the budget is approved it will make a huge difference. He says that he will visit the President tomorrow morning if the budget is not approved to inform him when Parliament should be dissolved and when the election should be held. 

6:58pm The country has changed from the very bottom. The country has changed for the better, and this budget will also change the country for the better," Gonzi says. 

6:55pm Gonzi lists the achievements in the health sector while noting that in the last five years other countries implemented austerity measures. The Strangers' Gallery is full to the brim. The last time Parliament attracted so many 'strangers' was in the January vote of no-confidence which the government survived thanks to the Speaker's casting vote, following Franco Debono's abstention.    

6:50pm "Good decisions are enjoyed by all, bad ones are suffered by all," Gonzi says. Still no sign of dissenting MP Franco Debono who has vowed to vote against the budget in tonight's vote. Fellow rebels, Jesmond Mugliett and independent MP, who have claimed that they will for the budget are also absent. The Opposition MPs are sitting silently in their seats as a sense of expectation reigns inside House of Representatives. 

6:48pm Gonzi lists the successes achieved by his government in the social and economic sectors. 

6:44pm In what increasingly sounds like Gonzi's swansong speech, the PN leader says that "it seems that some have forgot the pains we went through to survive the difficult times we encountered," as he made reference to the international economic crisis.  

6:42pm "We have created jobs. We have created wealth," Gonzi says after painstakingly explaining how many jobs were created in detail.

6:41pm The Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi reiterates the infamous claim of having created 20,000 jobs in the last five years and adds that he has serious doubts on whether Labour leader Joseph Muscat can replicate the same feat if he becomes Prime Minister.  

6:39pm Gonzi says that his administration's record in the last five years, achieved after "many sacrifices" shall be the measure used by the electorate when it is called to the polls in a few weeks time. 

6:37pm "We are in a position to give you the country back in a better shape then it was five years ago." 

6:34pm The Prime Minister kicks off his two hour speech by saying that his government has achieved a number of changes which the Opposition tried to block.

6:32pm Welcome! After an arduous security check we have finally made it into the House of Representatives. The prime Minister's speech is expected to commence shortly. 



"My best is yet to come," A desperate cry of a deluded man, after realising he has not been able to live up to the dream. It is time to notice all those fake smiles around you Gonzi.
GonziPN is irrelevant... Let the countdown for GonziPN's demise start... Long live the oligarchy and the web of evil... Let's go for it !!! Dr Gonzi, we'll meet you at the polls on the 9 of March 2013...
How the mighty fallen!!!! Fresh air is already seeping in. Hallelujah!!
vera jdejh sodi Gonzi ehh kien!! ara fiex gabu partit!