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The day Debono toppled Government

My best is yet to come – Gonzi

Barely an hour after he saw his Government collapse, an unshaken Lawrence Gonzi promised to mount an electoral campaign strong enough to overturn the polls.

“Rest? My best is yet to come,” the Prime Minister told journalists when he asked whether he would finally rest after a year of battling against the obstacles created by rebel MP Franco Debono.

“Franco Debono is a closed chapter. He is irrelevant,” Dr Gonzi said several times, refusing to elaborate or react to any of the claims the MP made against him in Parliament.

He addressed a press conference from Castille, in the room where Cabinet meetings are held, with his parliamentary group behind him. Most prominently, flanking him at either side, was the PN’s new deputy leader Simon Busuttil and Transport Minister Austin Gatt, a protagonist of yesterday’s vote.

Dr Gonzi announced that the election will be held on March 9 after agreement was reached with the Opposition not to campaign during the Christmas season.

He said he would meet Cabinet for the last time today at 9.30am to officially register the result of the vote. At 10am he will meet President George Abela and advise him to dissolve Parliament on January 7, to ensure voting documents are not distributed during the holiday season.

The PN, he said, would hold a rally tomorrow and a fundraising marathon on December 16, after which campaigning will start again on January 7. Dr Gonzi said he would also attend this week’s extraordinary EU summit about the European Monetary Fund.

Appealing for a clean campaign, Dr Gonzi said the Nationalist Party had laid all its cards on the table, including presenting a work programme for next year, through the Budget.

Asked about the cost-of-living-allowance given in the Budget, Dr Gonzi said this could be introduced for the private sector without problems. However, the Government was still examining how it could extend this to public workers in line with the law.

Dr Gonzi reiterated that his Government had lasted its full term with a series of “extraordinary” achievements that stunned other countries.

“We have placed all our cards on the table,” he said, adding that Labour had kept is policies hidden only to promise to implement the Budget that was presented by the Government.

Asked why he chose to schedule the election at the end of the maximum period allowed at law, Dr Gonzi said there were a number of factors that came into play, including Christmas holidays and the need to replace the former EU Commissioner, which led to the appointment of a new deputy leader for the PN.

Asked what pending laws he would have liked to enact if Parliament were not to be dissolved, Dr Gonzi said he would not hypothesise but pointed out that this legislature saw many laws being passed.

“We changed the country dramatically,” he said, pointing out that even divorce was introduced among other laws that had not even been conceived back in 2008.

Having your say

Last night’s historic moment – when Nationalist MP Franco Debono brought his government down by voting with the Opposition against the Budget – was followed on Twitter, Facebook and timesofmalta.com, as well as numerous other news websites. This is what some of you had to say.

Albert Critien
Thank you Franco, your personal problems are more important than those of the people who trusted you!

Victor Bonello
Prosit Dr Debono! He has stood up to be counted, against all odds. My admiration for such a man of his word!

Steve Engerer
Finally, [Franco Debono] this was your last speech where I had to listen to your self-ego-minded thought. You are history. If ever you may be remembered. No one is bigger than the organisation he is part of.

Andrew Borg Cardona
Debono said it was his privilege to vote against the Government. It is our privilege to treat him with the contempt he so richly deserves.

David Scicluna
Those who are in doubt on how to vote at the next election should read Franco’s speech tonight. I dare ­any one of the PN apologists to mention which part he was not telling the truth.

Tonio Mallia
All you people gloating that the Government has fallen. Do you know that it will have served its full term? Not two years but five whole years!

James Borg
At last... A future without Franco Debono!

Ben Tedesco
This general election is way overdue – at least for the past year, the government has been running without a majority in Parliament. Parliament has had more holidays than working days, and the government is afraid of taking votes.

Joseph Grech
Well done, Franco, you ruined one of the last surviving countries in the EU.

Cecil Herbert Jones
Of course this is not about the budget but about something else. Someone should please explain that to the EU, which approved the Budget that Malta created, in order to prevent them thinking we have gone mad!

Joe Grech
Austin Gatt commented that Franco Debono is history. He certainly is. Debono showed what MPs of mettle are made of... Debono was not a Yes man like many in the PN ­administration.

Victor De Bono
No doubt about it… Maltese politics would have inspired Lewis Carroll to write the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.

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