The Nationalist Party’s parliamentary whip, David Agius, criticised the Labour Party for gearing its supporters for elections and then lose the motion.
“The PL drove its people into a wall: it gave them hope they were going to the polls, but in reality their own no confidence motion was defeated,” Agius said this morning when speaking on Radju Malta’s Ghandi X’Nghid.
Agius said the Prime Minister had “safe hands” (par idejn sodi) and that “no leadership has collapsed”.
He insisted that backbencher Franco Debono – who had said that he no longer trusted Lawrence Gonzi - was still part of the Nationalist family.
Thursday’s vote in the House registered 34 votes in favour and 34 votes against the Labour’s motion. Only Debono abstained. Speaker Michael Frendo cast his vote against the motion.
“The motion needed 35 votes in favour to pass. The Opposition did not get that number so its motion was defeated.
“Do we have a slow puncture? No problem, we can solve that. Franco is with government, he is part of our family. Government enjoys Debono’s trust or else he wouldn’t have abstained,” Agius insisted.
Opposition’s spokesman Owen Bonnici – who also participated in the programme – said government knew that if had been the Prime Minister to present a confidence motion, it would have been defeated.
“When Debono abstained on a motion that called for minister Austin Gatt’s resignation over the public transport reform fiasco, the Prime Minister was quick to presenting a confidence motion because he knew that Debono’s problem was with Austin Gatt and not with him.
“But the Prime Minister knew that if he presented a confidence motion this time round, Debono would have abstained and his motion would have been defeated,” Bonnici said.
Alternattiva Demokratika’s spokesman Ralph Cassar said that Debono was not being clear: “If Franco Debono felt so strong against Austin Gatt, why didn’t he vote against him? Debono is sending out conflicting messages.”
Cassar said the issue whether the country should go to the polls or not was not simple: “Preferably for the country, elections should come in 2013. But AD is calling for elections simply because this instability should be dealth with.”
At one point, a caller remarked how in this country nobody shouldered any political responsibility for his actions and asked how Agius was still in government despite the number of times he had been found cheating during his exams.
Ignoring the comment, Agius said the PN never said Debono had betrayed his party: “We said that no one has the right to betray his constituents. We never said that Debono was a traitor.”
Asked whether Debono was a liability or an asset for the PN, Agius reiterated that Debono was “part of the family who comes out with great ideas”. He denied that Debono had been pressured in abstaining.