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Watch: Edwin Vassallo made free vote request before the election - still to decide on final vote

No personal crusade against the party

Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo is insisting he had asked party leader Simon Busuttil for a free vote on gay marriage before the general election, and got 'no feedback at all'.

The former parliamentary secretary voted against the gay marriage bill in the second reading stage on Wednesday and is keeping everyone guessing on his intentions for the bill’s final vote, set for next Wednesday.

"I am keeping my options open. I will decide on Wednesday after consultations. I would prefer a free vote and in any case I would like the opportunity to explain my position," he told Times of Malta.

The MP has come under fire from within party ranks for voting against a measure that was included in that party’s manifesto, and he could face disciplinary action. Much depends on how he will vote next week.

Watch: Edwin Vassallo to vote against gay marriage Bill

He said that this bill was presented as one introducing same-sex marriage but it went way beyond that. Before the election the understanding was that this bill would just be amending the name of the civil unions law. That was why the PN felt comfortable in its proposal, and he perfectly understood Dr Busuttil’s reasoning on this matter.

But he was against the content of the bill as presented by the government because rather than bringing equality it would lead to absolute uniformity. This was eradicating diversity. The Prime Minister has misled the people and somebody should hold him to account.

Mr Vassallo said that his objective was to ensure that whenever legislators were faced with decisions on moral issues such as gay marriage or surrogacy, they are granted a free vote.

While insisting that he had no intention to mount a personal crusade against the party, he said he would not give up on his mission to “set right what is morally wrong within the PN”.

"I want to remain an insider, not an outsider in the PN," he said. He insisted that MPs should have the right to express their personal views, and vote accordingly.

Busuttil appeal

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has called for unity within the PN group, telling parliament that MPs have a duty to give equal rights to all members of society. Should those rights clash with their own religious convictions, MPs could then opt to personally not exercise those rights. He mentioned divorce as an example.

Dr Busuttil also argued that the PN could not grant a free vote on gay marriage to its MPs as Angela Merkel had done in Germany, because gay marriage was in the PN electoral programme and it wasn't in Merkel's.

Pact with the electorate

But Mr Vassallo in a Facebook post on Wednesday recalled the ‘Pact of Loyalty’ which he said he had written as a candidate and shared with his constituents.

In his statement, he had declared that he did want to be part of a circus but wanted to be an important element in the pursuit of the truth. He did not want to be populist who followed the crowd. Winning votes was not the be-all-and-end-all of his activities.

He would not say yes to everything, and he would uphold and bear witness to Catholic values, he said.

However, he said, he respected those who disagreed with him.

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