Most trusted and mistrusted rebels

Results from a survey on the levels of trust enjoyed by PN backbenchers Franco Debono, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Jesmond Mugliett are published in MaltaToday’s Sunday edition.

Franco Debono
Franco Debono

They are considered to be rebel backbenchers, but surprisingly Franco Debono, who has repeatedly embarrassed the PN only this week, led the Prime Minister to announce that he would separate the justice from interior, is more trusted of all the three backbenchers. But Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, the pioneer behind the divorce bill, ends up as the least trusted. This could be a result of the flak he received from all sides (especially from the Labour party) on the Mistra saga before 2008.

This survey was carried out just before Pullicino Orlando's surprise announcement that he would not be contesting the next election. Debono, a criminal lawyer from the south, has taken advantage of the fact that the PN has a only a one-seat majority, and indirectly threatened to use his crucial one vote. 

Yet he has been crucial in raising valid questions about institutional reform and more importantly, about the failings in justice and the courts. But surprisingly, Debono has never allied himself with Pullicino Orlando and Mugliett.

Trusted PN PL
Franco Debono 42.3 30.9
Jesmond Mugliett 42.3 14
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando 30.8 14

Not trusted PN PL
Franco Debono 29.8 39.7
Jesmond Mugliett 20.2 53.7
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando 43.3 50

Following his abstention, which forced the government to rely on the speakers' casting vote on an opposition motion censuring Transport Minister Austin Gatt, Nationalist backbencher Franco Debono was still trusted by a relative majority of Nationalist voters.

Debono's abstention forced the Prime Minister to call a confidence vote: a move which was unprecedented in post-Independence Maltese history (note: although both Alfred Sant and George Borg Olivier had similarly called for the confidence of parliament, they did so by tying an existing bill before the house to a vote of confidence in their governments).

The survey was held before Debono announced that he would oppose reforms presented by Home Affairs and Justice Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici.

But while 42.3% of Nationalist voters still trust Debono, a substantial 30% have lost trust in the maverick MP. 

But despite his antics, Debono remains more trusted by Nationalist voters than Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who is distrusted by 43% and trusted by just 31% of Nationalist voters. 

On the other hand, Debono is as trusted among Nationalist voters as the less controversial Jesmond Mugliett, who had only distanced himself from the government in a free vote on the divorce referendum question. 

The survey was conducted between Wednesday 16 and Wednesday 23 November, before Pullicino Orlando announced that he will not be contesting the forthcoming election with the Nationalist Party, and before Debono announced that if a reform package on justice is not amended, he would vote against it.

The MaltaToday survey was limited to the three backbenchers who had broken ranks with government in different parliamentary votes.  

Mugliett and Pullicino Orlando had voted with the opposition on a crucial vote on the wording of the divorce referendum question last March. The vote resulted in Gonzi's only parliamentary defeat so far. But on this occasion, Nationalist MPs were given a free vote, and therefore Mugliett and Pullicino Orlando were still loyal to their party.

Debono forced the government to rely on the speaker's casting vote twice: first by leaving early before a vote was taken in December 2009, and then by keeping to his word to abstain on an opposition motion censoring Austin Gatt. On this occasion, the party had called on its MPs to vote against the opposition's motion.

Debono's relative popularity could in fact reflect the unpopularity of Gatt, whose performance as Minister was deemed positive by just 24% of Nationalist voters in a MaltaToday survey conducted in October. Challenging Mifsud Bonnici, whose performance was approved by 66% of Nationalist voters, could have very different consequences on Debono.

The survey shows that before his decision to retire from politics, Pullicino Orlando was the only one of the three rebel backbenchers to be distrusted by a relative majority of PN voters.

Debono and Pullicino Orlando are both more distrusted by Nationalist voters than Mugliett.

Moreover, the survey shows that among all respondents, Debono enjoys the highest level of trust among the three MPs. 

In fact, a third of all respondents expressed their trust in Debono, compared to less than 25%  in the case of Mugliett and Pullicino Orlando.

Of the three backbench rebels, Debono is also the most trusted among Labour voters.  Among Labour voters, Debono is trusted by 31% but is distrusted by 39%. This could reflect the fact that Debono kept to his word.

Debono is also relatively popular among uncommitted voters (i.e., voters who are either undecided or would not vote in a forthcoming election). Among this category, Debono is trusted by 34% and only distrusted by 19%. 

On his part, Pullicino Orlando registers high levels of distrust among all categories of voters; being distrusted by 43% of Nationalist voters, 50% of Labour voters and 41% of uncommitted voters.

This could reflect the fact that the MP received flak from all sides, from Labour on the Mistra case, from the Church and conservatives in his own party on the divorce issue and from loyalists who all along questioned his loyalty to the party.

But Mugliett is even more distrusted than Pullicino Orlando among Labour voters, 53% of whom do not trust him. This could reflect the constant attacks of the opposition in the previous legislature regarding his roads ministry portfolio and the Manwel Dimech bridge saga.

But Mugliett is less of a polarising figure among non-committed voters and Nationalist voters. In fact, 24% of Nationalist voters and 43% of uncommitted voters replied "don't know" when asked whether they trust Mugliett. This could also reflect Mugliett's less prominent role in the political scene.



A total of 652 respondents were contacted by telephone between Wednesday 16 and Tuesday 22 November. 450 accepted to be interviewed. The results were weighed to reflect the age and population balance of population. The survey has a margin of error of /- 4.6%.

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The standing ovation given to Austin Gatt in the last PN National Conference is a clear vote of no confidence in Franco Debono by the PN counsillors. It's interesting how even these councillors are out of touch with what most of the PN voters feel and think.
I think that it's the Maltese people who should rebel! What these backbenchers are doing is not for the interest of the people, but for their own ego and interests. If they really believe that the government is not functioning in the interest of all the Maltese people, they should have the balls and send GonziPN home, by simply voting against, and not like they have done recently. These type of people are not trusted, neither from the party that they represent, nor from the opposition party. I don't care what these backbenchers complain and say anymore, cause first thay seem to make alot of pressure in what they argue, and then, when it really counts, they just hold back and either they abstain, or they vote in favour of the governments motion. We are still too far from what happens in European parliaments. Even the Prime Minister should have resigned following the outcome of the referendum. How can a Prime Minister votes against a law that his own government has passed in pParliament, following a clear message from the electorate! Of cours, we are still very, very far away from being an EU country. It would make much more sense if we consider ourselves as being a fundamentalist country, where religion comes before civil rights. That's what the PN wanted, at least the executive and some close ministers to the prime minister. If any MP would like us to believe in what he states, he must act, and not continuing bluffing week after week. JPO was clever enough to declare that he's not running for the next general elections, and by doing so, he is avoiding being humiliated by the PN internal machine. After all the prime minister himself admitted with the US ambassador that he hasn't got much choice from his parliamentary group! I hope the people involved will remember this disgusting statement in the near future.
Pleased to announce the first meeting of the ASSOCIATION OF NAT MPs WHO MAKE GONZI BITE THE DUST: Hon President and Advisor: Dottor Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami President: Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando Vice President: Franco Debono Secretary: Jean Pierre Farrugia Ass Secretary: Beppe Fenech Adami Treasurer: Robert Arrigo
Does a Rebel fight against Justice or Injustice? If MPs feels somthing is going wrong, all they have to do is vote against, they never do this because they will loose their salary/honoraria/allowances/etc etc. Take for instance the €5,000,000,000 debt Malta has, is the Government interested, NO, if the welfare of the Maltese people were their interest they wouldn’t have done so. Mintoff found a mess in 1970, but managed to increase the standard of living apart from creating thousand of jobs. Increased the nation’s assets and although we didn’t have Cadbury, the people had enough money to go abraod to get Cadbury. His government left Assets as well as a €1,000,000,000 in the Maltese Coffers. On the other hand the Nationalist Goverment used to say “Money no problem”. An ex Minister of Finance used to say that the debt will be paid by our children childrens, and “we will burn everything” and thats what they did. Anyone can be a spend thrift from others money. In fact the Government took € 26,000 every year, and gave the people €302.64 for two years. In 2008 when the Prime Minister saw the storm coming, they took a hefty rise while imposing austerity measures like the explosion in the electricity bills, gas, fuels, food prices. This is the solidarity the Nationalist Government preaches about. In my opinion a politician is either Honest person who cares about the Nation and it’s people interest or a comedian or an illusionist who tries to take people for a ride.
Dr Debono has by now become predictable as the records show that in spite of all the big talk he will at the end of the day ALWAYS vote with the government's side. This has diluted his firing power. From now on he will be taken for granted and so no more feared by the PN. Reminds us of Aesop's fable 'cry wolf'