Fearing he will be made Gonzi’s scapegoat, Franco Debono mulls abstention

Nationalist MP wary of provoking early elections on 9 May budget vote.

Not willing to be paraded by Lawrence Gonzi as the MP who forced early elections, Franco Debono has told confidants he will abstain on a forthcoming money bill.
Not willing to be paraded by Lawrence Gonzi as the MP who forced early elections, Franco Debono has told confidants he will abstain on a forthcoming money bill.

Nationalist MP Franco Debono is basking in the limelight as the Maltese parliament's enfant terrible, but privately he has admitted he is not willing to take the nation into early elections.

For the past five months, Debono has kept the country and his party - with whom he appears to have broken ranks by repeatedly calling for Lawrence Gonzi's resignation - guessing over whether he intends voting against a money bill on 9 May that could precipitate early elections.

The odds appear to be strongly against him voting against the Budget Measures Appropriation Bill, and that he is more likely to abstain - allowing the Speaker of the House to keep Gonzi on life-support with his casting vote.

Confidants who spoke to MaltaToday say the 38-year-old MP, whose ambitions to become justice minister were thwarted in the last cabinet reshuffle back in January, has told them he will not have Gonzi parade him as the man responsible for early elections.

One source expressly said Debono "intends abstaining", another said the MP said he does not want to be "Gonzi's scapegoat".

Earlier today, Debono was spotted at Café Cordina in Valletta engrossed in conversation: a copy of MaltaToday's 'Midweek' edition on the bar's counter had former prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami splashed over the front page, calling on the PN to call Debono's bluff and forge ahead with its business.

But the MP has refused to even comment on Fenech Adami's statement, when contacted later this afternoon by MaltaToday: "I have not read what Eddie Fenech Adami said and I will not read it. I have absolutely nothing to say."

When pressed to comment on how he intends to vote on 9 May, Debono hurriedly replied: "I have nothing to say on that either."

Since Gonzi decided to test Debono's claims that he will withdraw his support from government, the MP has retorted by demanding that the House debates the motions on justice and home affairs that he and the Opposition tabled (Debono's motion calls on the House to approve 22 proposals but has been given little media attention, while Labour's is a motion of censure against home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici, formerly also justice minister).

Now government and Opposition are locked in a battle inside the House Business Committee on the timing to debate Labour's justice and home affairs motion, and another motion that calls for the resignation of Richard Cachia Caruana, the permanent representative of the EU.

A compromise date for 23 May proposed by Speaker Michael Frendo may be agreed upon in tonight's (Wednesday) committee meeting, where Leader of the House Carm Mifsud Bonnici has had to take a back seat while his predecessor, deputy prime minister Tonio Borg taking the lead.

Earlier today, MaltaToday Midweek reported comments by Eddie Fenech Adami advising Nationalist leader Lawrence Gonzi to call Franco Debono's bluff. "The sooner that individual's bluff is called, the better."

Fenech Adami, who also occupied the role of Opposition leader in 1998, had seen a similar backbencher revolt spell the untimely end to the 22-month-old Labour government under Alfred Sant. "I have always been against any form of appeasement policy," Fenech Adami said when asked what he thought of government's attempts to 'rein in' maverick backbencher Franco Debono. "Appeasement never solves any problems... The situation at present is what it is. We have heard a lot of talk, but until a vote is actually taken against the government, there is no reason for government not to keep implementing its programme."

MORE Eddie Fenech Adami: 'The sooner they call Franco Debono's bluff, the better'

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@HIGHLANDER - sounds like a horror movie on the other hand u are saying to Giov quote 'ahna ghamilna 4 snin nidhqu bikhom, u intom ghamiltu 4 snin agonija!...ifhimni, agonija bhala qtuh ta qalb ta' unquote...... mela IL PN kemm ilu jidhaq bikom titilfu elezzjoni wahda wara l-ohra.... taf kemm highlander or you lost count now. @ Privitera il bniedem li jrid jghallem id demokrazija....... ghadni nistenna xi tip ta risposta minn ghandek or else your comments are "RUBBISH' as always.
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Viva Malta Libera. Le ghal Malta socjalista kif riduna tar-run rabbit run. Demmna ncarcru ghal- Liberta`. Il-Liberta` l-ewwel u qabel kollox/ Viva l- Ewropa. Viva Malta. O Malta, l-isbah post fid-dinja, ehlisna mill-ktajjen socjalisti.
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@Antoine Vella - I see you've crawled out from under that stinking stone you're so used to sheltering under, while vomiting your bile aginst anything and everything Labour. What are you doing here anyway? Or is this rag good enough for you now?...you recognise the word rag don't you?, you've mentioned it a number of times in your bile blogger contributions. Sewwa jghid il-Malti, Minn imaqdar, jixtri! Do you have your master's permission to be here? does she know?, is this acceptable to her? @Giovann - Ghalfejn tghid li Franco haraq lilna?...ahna ghamilna 4 snin nidhqu bikhom, u intom ghamiltu 4 snin agonija!...ifhimni, agonija bhala qtuh ta qalb ta, ghax il gelgul tal-Liri (jew Ewro) xorta hemm baqa. Imma biss il-hsieb li dal gelgul jista jieqaf hesrem, ukoll ikkawza hafna diahria lil hafna minnkom!
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Franco Debono should change his name to Oliver Twist. It reminds me of the part of the film when Oliver asked "PLEASE SIR GIVE SOME MORE". U hallina Franco ghax issa dejjaqt lill kullhadd, u hadd ma ghadu jaghti kasek. Hu decizjoni darba ghal dejjem. Dejjem tasal sat-tarf u terga lura.
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Tghid lil min haraq l-izjed Franc debono? Lilna u lilhom?
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Luke Camilleri
The way I see it is that Franco Debono is practicing "Coitus Interuptus" on his Prime Minister & his coterie.....but falling short of the expected climax!
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So if he is abstaining again... why the **** is he doing all this show for? Has nothing else to do? He is behaving like a chihuahua... loads of noise and no action.... just BLUFF and a time waster. Now the PM can really say... its business as usual.
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What did one expect. All wind but no juice.
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Joseph Sant
@Antoine Vella: I'm not at all concerned by the timing of the General Elections. However, your statement is incorrect. A Prime Minister is not elected for five years but for as long as he commands a parliamentary majority. Technically there could be a different PM from an opposing party even without the need of an election. The five years only refers to the maximum life of a parliament.
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Privitera, is that gnashing of teeth I hear?
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Sur Eddie nisfidak u ghidilna fejn u meta EFA kien zbilancjat meta kien president ta Malta. Nisfidak u jekk ghandek il kuragg wegibni. Ghax ma tghidx il hdura li ghandek lejn dan il bniedem. Malta zghira sur laviera u nies maghrufa. Ma tantx ghandi ghalfejn inkompli. EFA huwa STATISTA KBIR u success li ghamel Hu personali u ghal Malta hadd ma ghamlu.Nispera tkun ragel issa u tghid fejn EFA kien zbilancjat meta qadi dmirijietu bhala President. Il bqija kull ma tghid is ' RUBBISH' as always.
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Privitera, is that gnashing of teeth I hear?
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Dr Debono is no fool and does not need anyone to preach to him that at face value (a) a vote against the money bill or (b) his abstention on this bill plus a vote against the motions tabled regarding CMB and RCC or (c) the criticism he has levelled at Dr Gonzi and his 'coterie' will all mean his having to renounce his contesting ever again an election with GonziPN. So one cannot not suspect that there MUST be something which we are not seeing but many have been expecting. If there are still doubters they have only to read Antoine Vella's comment below.
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FOOL of the year, or HERO of the year? It's for Franco to decide. He is finished with the PN, anyway he votes, for the PN will discard him just before the election when there's no more danger of his voting against Government. The PN will not repeat the JPO mistake, of letting him contest the elections, for him to be then returned from two districts.
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Onorevoli Franco Debono... Se ddum tippulcinella?! Meta se tikber?! Issa gennint kemm lin-nazzjonalisti u kemm lil-laburisti! Irnexxielek ixellifha ma kulhadd. Aqbad u aqtaghha issa: jew vi jew va... Jew se tivvota kontra jew sempliciment aghlaq halqek u oqghod bi kwietek sa l-elezzjoni li jmiss. Jew taccetta il-fatt li Gonzi qatt ma kellu fidi bizzejjed fik biex jaghmlek ministru u toqghod bi kwietek jew inkella pattihielu u waqqa il-gvern. Imma iddeciedi! Jew ivvota kontra jew aghlaq halqek issa - ghax qed tilghab bin-nies taz-zewg nahat issa!
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In my view Eddie Fenech Adami is the ONLY former President who continued to meddle in partisan poilitics . No wonder I have never had any faith in him when he was president of the Republic !
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ONLY MEN HAVE GUTS.
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...and probably this is sweet music to the Prime Minister and his Government who will be happy to approve these votes with the Speakers casting vote as Dr Gonzi and Co do not care what the people out there think about such a situation as long as this gives enough breathing time to try to bridge the great electoral survey gap between the PN and the PL.
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Lawrence Gonzi was elected by the People to serve as Malta's Prime Minister for five years. It is good to note that the People's will is going to be respected. Elections next year.
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FRANCO IBQA SOD U VERA NAMIRAK.ARA MA TIEHUX PASS WIEHED BISS LURA GHAX HAJTEK INFERNOOO JAGHMLUHIELEK DAWK IN NIES
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Dr. Franco Debono....Jekk qeghed tahseb li ahna il laburisti genwini qeghedin niehdu gost b`dak li qeghed taghmel jew nixtiequk li twaqqa lil gvern tieghek, nghejdulek li sejjer zball. Kull ma qeghed taghmel huwa li twaqqa lil l-ghola istituzzjoni tal pajjiz ghan nej..Il gvern jaqa u ma jaqax....9 xhur ohra trid issir elezzjoni, trid u ma tridx int. Hadd ma jaf x`loghoba qeghed tiprova tilghab, ghax jekk ghandek kwistjoni personali ma Dr. Gonzi jew Dr. Carm, tuzax il parlament.Dan li qeghed taghmel missek ghamiltu 3 snin ilu u mhux issa lejliet elezzjoni.....
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Clayton Saliba
We are our own worst enemies, Dr Debono perhaps ought to at least consider, if this is his case. OK , we all have enemies, but we are the worst and most destructive against ourselves. Oblivion is not a nice place in a small pond.
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Franco Debono thinks that is a replica of Dom Mintoff, but everyone knows that has no guts at all. Its all for publicity, and for the fun of keeping the country guessing. Close friends of Franco can confirm that he is scared to put down the goverment altough he knows that on the 10 May GONZIPN will inform him that they do not need him as a candidate in next election but instead they will put Schiavone. Franco Debono made a political sucide for gaining nothing. He is crown as the jester as well commented by Salvu Balzan last week.