Vote Yes or resign your seat

Published: June 2, 2011 at 1:17pm

Divorce: the strange Achilles heel of those who took Malta into the Eurozone

This is my column in The Malta Independent today.

It is disturbing to see both political leaders behave as though the referendum never happened. They say they will not use the party whip for a Yes vote on the divorce bill.

It makes me wonder why they bothered with a referendum at all, if they plan to ignore the result.

Their specious reasoning can be tested by taking it to its logical extreme. If MPs have the right to vote No or abstain, then it follows that all of them can exercise that right, and if they do, what then?

It is fatuous of the political leaders to claim that they will ensure sufficient numbers vote Yes to make the bill law. That only serves to underscore the fact that voting No is at odds with democracy – particularly given that the prime minister plans to lead by example in voting No or abstaining.

Before the referendum, both political leaders committed themselves to giving their MPs a free vote, but that applied only in a situation where there was no referendum. Now that there has been a referendum, the party leaders cannot give their MPs a free vote because this amounts to telling them that they are permitted to ignore the will of the people.

Worse still, they have more or less told their MPs: “Look here, I’m giving you a free vote but make damned sure that you work things out with the other side of the house so that enough of you vote Yes because otherwise we’re screwed.”

As with the parliamentary debate about Libya, that never was because both government and Opposition colluded on silence and called it prudence, so we are about to see once more the collapse of the primary function of the Opposition, which is to hold the government to account.

Immediately the prime minister announced that he would allow his MPs to vote freely on the divorce bill, and that he wasn’t sure what he would do himself, the Opposition should have pounced and denounced his anti-democratic behaviour. Instead, they mimicked it.

The Opposition cannot hold the prime minister and his government to account on this one, because it is held hostage by its own anti-democratic past. Despite a clear majority in favour of EU membership in the last referendum but one, Labour voted against the EU accession treaty and its leader counted abstentions with the No vote and spoiled ballot-sheets and announced that his Partnership had won.

His successor, who was then his assistant, had no shame in saying that it took him a good five years, most of them spent in Brussels as an MEP, to see that the Yes vote had a clear majority. With such a disgraceful past, Joseph Muscat and his Opposition are not in a position to say anything when the prime minister and his MPs fail to vote Yes.

This is how badly we are served by our representatives. But the root of the problem is that their understanding of parliamentary democracy is so poor that they don’t see themselves as our representatives at all. God knows how they translate the word ‘deputat’ (the people’s deputy or delegate) but it is certainly not in any way that assumes their function as the delegate of their constituents.

If we were to adopt the British parliament’s way of addressing and describing MPs as ‘the honourable member for Wolverhampton’ or ‘the honourable member for Stowe’, this might force them to remember why and on whose behalf they sit in parliament. But instead of the ‘honourable member for Mosta’ we have ‘l-onorevoli Edwin Vassallo’ and so he thinks that his conscience is the primary issue here.

Let’s be clear about it. Any MP who thinks that a vote for divorce legislation transgresses his conscience has but one choice: to decide that voting against the will of the people upsets his conscience more than voting for divorce legislation, and so vote Yes, or to resign his seat and clear the way for the election of another member in his stead.

As things stand, their conscience clearly does not tell them to pack up and go. Instead it tells them to have their cake and eat it, while wiping their collective mouth on our ballot-sheets.

I am shocked to the core to hear that the prime minister is trying to decide between voting No and abstaining. He is, for heaven’s sake, the prime minister. He, of all people, cannot vote against the will of the people. Nor can he abstain.

The first makes him anti-democratic and the second makes him ridiculous. He commits political hara-kiri either way, and the two-year struggle to a terrible beating at the polls will seem endless.

For years he criticised Alfred Sant for ignoring the will of the people as expressed in the referendum on EU membership, and now he plans to lower himself to that level and do the same thing. If the prime minister cannot bring himself to rubber-stamp divorce legislation based on a decision already taken by those he governs, then the only option open to him is to resign his seat.

Quite frankly, given that he was adamant Malta did not want divorce legislation and would not have it, that he would not allow Malta to have it and that the referendum result was not the one he wanted (who cares what he wants, for crying out loud?) he should have resigned as party leader, prime minister and member of parliament the minute the result was out.

It is not enough for the prime minister to say that he will ensure the bill becomes law, and so it doesn’t matter if he and others vote No or abstain. That is Jesuitical reasoning of the most craven sort, though I myself consider the terminology insulting to the Jesuit Order.

What the prime minister is saying here is this: “I will make it happen but I will not be part of it.”

Yet by making it happen, he IS part of it.

There is absolutely no consistency in using his influence as party leader to ensure that some of his MPs vote Yes – doesn’t this go against his conscience? – while at the same time he votes No or abstains. If he can square this with his conscience, then his conscience must be divisible into at least two parts.

The prime minister is, in effect, saying that he will get others on the government benches to do what he considers to be the dirty work. Worse, he will get the backbenchers to do that dirty work, because members of his cabinet have to vote with their prime minister or resign from his cabinet.

The choice facing the prime minister is clear: vote Yes or go. That is what people of honour do when they have a problem with their conscience. They do not do what Pilate did, and which is what the prime minister is planning on doing. He doesn’t want divorce-blood on his hands, so he’s going to leave it to others on his benches to get blood on theirs.

I am most taken aback by the apparent failure of both government and Opposition – with the exception of some MPs who were interviewed by reporters and who said that they would respect the will of the people – to understand their parliamentary function subsequent to a referendum.

A referendum strips them of their decision-making function and leaves them purely with their legislative function. In other words, after a referendum they still have to vote to turn a bill into law because electors cannot do that themselves. But they cannot take the decision themselves because the electorate has done that already directly, in the referendum. The function of MPs is now purely to rubber-stamp that decision.

If they don’t want to do it, they know where the door is.

I distinctly remember the prime minister saying more than once that parliament cannot take a decision on divorce – that it is too big a decision and that the decision has to be taken directly by the people, in a referendum.

Those words are coming back to haunt him now, as he speaks unwisely of ‘respecting the will of the minority’. In a referendum, there IS no minority. With a referendum, the winner takes all. That is the point of a referendum. Birgu joined the European Union along with Sliema, even though its residents voted against. And people who live in Gozo will have a divorce law even though most of them didn’t want it – because a referendum is national and only the majority vote counts.

It is obvious that the prime minister knows this; he is a seasoned politician and a lawyer. If he is confusing his referendums with his general elections, there must be a reason for it, and at this stage, I’d rather not know. In a general election, the minority IS respected: it gets a whole array of representatives on the Opposition benches. But you can’t have 53% of a divorce law or 53% of EU membership.

I have discovered over the last (upsetting) 48 hours that very many people cannot understand why MPs should not vote in any other way but Yes to this bill.

If parliament did not wish to lose its decision-making function, then it shouldn’t have called a referendum. We put our representatives in parliament to decide things on our behalf. We delegate them to take decisions for us. But when we take a decision ourselves, in a referendum, then we have taken the decision and so legislators may not decide again on our behalf.

Lots of people also seem to have trouble understanding that when voting after a referendum, MPs do not represent their constituencies. The result of a referendum is national. It is single and undivided.

The fact that we voted district by district, and so have the numbers separately for all districts, does not mean that there was a referendum in every district, with a separate result. It is merely an accident of the manner in which we are organised to vote and of how the votes are counted.

It does not mean that there was a ‘Gozo referendum’ in which 70% voted No and that Giovanna Debono, representing her kingdom, should vote No to the divorce bill.

There was only one result in this referendum – Yes. The figures by district are irrelevant except for political market research. Those MPs who fail to understand this are in peril.

All the Nationalist MPs have to do is look across the floor, where a bunch of people have been sitting in Opposition for 24 years bar a blip, to understand why if they vote No or abstain they will not be trusted again for a very long time, and why we will lose all respect for them.

The prime minister, especially, will never bounce back from any such decision.

If he wishes to die by his own sword, then he should not do the dishonourable thing and take his entire party with him, leaving the country at the mercy of the dreadful Joseph Muscat. He should do the honourable thing and leave now.




44 Comments Comment

  1. Etil says:

    Bless you Daphne – you certainly have a knack of putting into words what most people feel. My worry is will the people really understand what is going on – that their rights are being trampled upon by the so-called ‘do-gooders’?

    The crux of the matter is this: the parliamentarians abdicated their duty to decide on divorce legislation and so called a referendum for the people to decide. The people have decided and that is it, end of story.

  2. Kenneth Cassar says:

    On a lighter note, isn’t that the picture of when the ATM at first refused to give them any money?

  3. Fenech M says:

    Il-membri parlamentari taz-sewg nahat kellhom cans meta l-Onor JPO pprezenta l-Bill tieghu fil-Parlament biex jivvutaw kontra u kellhom l-isbah skuza – dik li d-divorzju ma kien fl-ebda Manifest Elettorali. Imma dawn riedu jfarfru mir-responsabblilta taghhom u ddecidew li jaraw xi jrid il-poplu. Issa l-MPs taz-zewg nahat jafu li l-maggoranza tal-Maltin iridu d-divorzju u ghalhemm l-MPs kollha ghadhom jivvutaw IVA. Jekk ma jaqblux ghandhom jirrizenjaw.

    Ma noqghodux nilghabu bil-kliem kif kien ghamel Alfred Sant meta sar ir-referendum fuq l-Unjoni Ewropea. Li kien jghodd ghal Alfred Sant jghodd illum ghal kulhadd.

  4. lino says:

    I’m losing trail of the whole issue now. Wasn’t it a non-binding consultative referendum? So why decision-making rather than opinion-searching referendum?

    [Daphne – Because the country does not spend four milllion euros that it can’t afford on a survey of public opinion. Misco is cheaper.]

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      @ lino:

      It is non-binding only to undemocratic politicians who believe they are gods instead of our own employees elected to do our bidding.

      If they don’t like it, they should emigrate to Iran.

      • luciano says:

        with all due respect, the referendum passed with 53.7% ? mela if the bill passes from parliament with 34 to 31 majority it would still reflect the electorate. so no problem there. we cry that the minority should be respected while at the same time we want the minority vote in the referendum to be ignored.

        [Daphne – ??????????????????????? Minority votes don’t count, Luciano. That is the whole point of a referendum. Cottonera is in the European Union even though most of its residents voted Labour in 2003 and No to the EU. And nobody told Joseph Muscat ‘Isma hej, you can’t stand for the EP elections because you told us to vote No and did so yourself, and your party voted against the Accession Treaty’. Madonna, how exhausting. All this arguing and explaining over the last few days has wiped me out. And that’s not even factoring in the weeks before that, explaining why divorce legislation is normal and why not having it is not.]

    • Stephen says:

      Lino, binding or not, the question was put to the people and the people spoke. To go ahead and ignore the opinion you sought in the first place would be big-time arrogance and a total waste of time and money.

    • Edward Clemmer says:

      A referendum is a referendum is a referendum.

      A consultative referendum is only consultative because it precedes the enactment of legislation.

      When a referendum is presented after a bill has been passed, it becomes an abrogative referendum which, if passed, allows the electorate to reject the bill. If the bill is rejected, it does not become law. If the bill is not rejected, then the bill is signed into law.

      Meanwhile, back at the 2011 Maltese referendum, the electorate have provided their mandate to the parliament. The parliamentarians have consulted, and the people have spoken.

      Of course, someone could always try to change the form of government to something less democratic. But then, isn’t here something of an “Arab Spring” going on around the Mediterranean? Perhaps it’s catching.

    • MS says:

      I think the problem is that (too) many people think that democracy equals the Maltese political system and vice-versa, which is absolutely incorrect. Democracy is a set of principles, whereas the Maltese political system is just an implementation of democracy based on the interpretation, circumstances, and interests of those who established it.

  5. David (another one) says:

    Was the PN so alienated from the change in values and morality of the electorate that this result has taken it so much by surprise?

    One thing I have noticed in the past years was that all the PN was concerned about boasting lately was projects, more projects, economic achievements, economic achievements and erm …. did I mention economic achievements?

    Did it never occur to them that people want rights? Civil rights? That maybe people would be happier with a few euros less in their pocket but with the freedoms that a true European country with European values enjoys?

    The advantage Joseph Muscat has shown to have over most of the PN (bar a few) is that he knows how the people are feeling, he knows where it’s sore. He also has proved himself to be a better chess player than his opponent so far.

    [Daphne – I totally, totally disagree. Joseph Muscat is the sort of person who would be checkmated by his own big toe. He lacks the sharp intelligence, insight and knowledge of the electorate required for political strategy. Lawrence Gonzi, on the other hand, is a consummate strategist but divorce has always been his Achilles heel. It is where he abandons all the qualities that have allowed him to survive and achieve things so far. It is a complete and total aberration, and that’s why I find it so shocking.]

    • “Lawrence Gonzi, on the other hand, is a consummate strategist”.

      If the two most recent major events are anything to go by (Libyan crisis and divorce referendum), Dr Gonzi is losing his shine in the strategy department.

      [Daphne – Yes. Or maybe he’s using up all his strategic energy on surviving the shark attacks in his own party. That’s how some people go down: they get tangled up in warding off the driver-ants and don’t prepare for the lions heading their way.]

    • Chris says:

      Sorry, Daph, really can’t agree with you on this one. The one time I met him I was surprised as to how nonstrategic and petulant he could be.

      He is far from the consummate strategist. On the contrary he has surrounded himself with ‘yes men’ ( and here I would include the Tonio Fenech, Borg et al) who instead of testing his ideas simply acquiesce.

      When Fenech Adami finally became PM his mettle had already been tested against some of the most intricate political crises that faced Malta. Running the country after that was a doddle.

      Fenech Adami’s mistake was to provide his party with an ‘anointed one’. Gonzi has neither the political nous nor the creative vision of a true leader. His idea is ‘my way or no way.’ That’s why the divorce issue hurts him so much. He lives in his uncle’s shadow. Never a good place to be when you are leader

  6. H.P. Baxxter says:

    Is Daphne the only person to understand Maltese democracy? And the only Maltese to talk sense? Scary thought.

    On the flipside, should Angelik’s tsunami threaten Malta’s existence, and should the government decide to build an ark to save the nation’s best brains, a small cabin cruiser with a carrying capacity of 8 to 12 should be enough. RCC and Simon Busuttil are safely ensconced in Brussels anyway.

  7. Matthew says:

    As always, excellently written.

    Is it possible that our Parliament, chock-a-block with lawyers, really doesn’t get it? This is very disturbing.

    It’s equally disturbing to see how many people think that what the MPs are doing is perfectly normal.

    This whole saga shows how important it is that the consultative referendum law be changed to a binding referendum law giving MPs no choice but to vote for the people’s will.

    One would have thought that after the money, time and energy consuming campaign, everyone would be able to continue with their normal lives but it seems we are going to keep struggling every little bit of the way.

    No wonder so many youngsters are tired of Malta and want to leave to other European countries.

  8. D Sullivan says:

    Why not hold a referendum asking how members of parliament should vote?

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      And waste some more millions of euro? No thanks. Let them vote according to their “conscience” and face the consequences in the next general elections.

      • Antoine Vella says:

        Kenneth, the problem is that, yes, in the elections the MPs might face the consequences of their actions but, after the elections, it would be the rest of the country that would have to face the consequences.

      • Kenneth Cassar says:

        @ Antoine Vella:

        If some MPs don’t face the consequences of their actions in the general elections, the rest of the country will have to face the consequences of having MPs not fit for the job. And this applies to MPs from both parties.

  9. Malcolm Bonnici says:

    Daphne, you baffle me. In a previous post I mentioned that I’m confused about trusting the PN back into power because of all this fiasco. You replied that in an election your choice is either Gonzi or Muscat and given the choice you’d choose Gonzi anytime.

    Fair enough. Now, Gonzi has shown his intention to either vote against or abstein in the divorce bill. You have stated in your (well written) article that if he does that, he should do the honorouble thing and leave now.

    If he resigns, wouldn’t it be inevitable that Muscat would become Prime Minister? The PN would surely lose the election without Gonzi at the helm. Apart from that, who would be his successor? Tonio Fenech?

    [Daphne – I don’t follow your argument that the prime minister’s resignation would lead to general elections. It is perfectly possible for prime ministers to be changed mid-term. That’s how’s Lawrence Gonzi got to become prime minister in the first place. It’s also how KMB (cringe) got to be prime minister. And how Gordon Brown did. I’m just sick to the gills of the ‘have your cake and eat it’ school of thinking. If divorce is such a big principle with the prime minister that he is prepared to say ‘I don’t care what the people think’ and scupper the ship for it, then surely it’s a big enough principle for which to step off the ship altogether. ]

    Also, in the (most probable) case that Gonzi absents himself from voting and does not resign, thus going against your point of view which you seem to be quite strong about, how can you vote for someone to be Prime Minister who has acted in such a manner where you asked for his resignation? I’m honestly confused.

    [Daphne – Because to me, voting is a civic duty and not voting is not an option. I would never consider not voting. So given that I consider it my duty to vote, and will do so come what may, I have to choose. The choice is between Gonzi and Muscat as prime minister. I am very clear about who I consider to be the better option. When it comes to the candidates, it’s simpler, because the choice is wider (though not in Mosta) and you can leave out the ones you really can’t stand. Last time, I think I voted for only three candidates.]

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      [Malcolm Bonnici – If he resigns, wouldn’t it be inevitable that Muscat would become Prime Minister?].

      No. On the other hand, if he does not resign and votes “No”, it will be inevitable that Muscat would become Prime Minister.

    • Malcolm Bonnici says:

      Ok Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. I didn’t mean that if Gonzi resigns elections will follow. What I meant is that if Lawrence Gonzi resigns now there’s no way that the PN will win the next election in two years’ time with a new leader for the PN will look unstable and I cannot imagine who can be chosen as leader.

      [Daphne – That there are risks as to who will follow is obvious. But to say that the party can’t win with a new leader? No. Some would say the opposite. As it is, one of the main problems is how the PN is going to inspire people and whip up the kind of energy you need to send people to the polls to vote for you, when they are so damned tired of you. And why unstable? The PN switched horses mid race in 2004 and still won the 2008 election. True, it was against Alfred Sant, but there you go.]

      However my main point is: OK Gonzi is the better choice between him and Muscat. But I cannot imagine myself voting for someone to be Prime Minister after having asked for his resignation. It just doesn’t make sense.

      [Daphne – Well, no, if you think in boxes it doesn’t make sense. But the way I think is this: here I am in 2013, faced with a choice between Joseph Muscat and Lawrence Gonzi. Whether I choose or not, I am going to get one of them. So I’d like to choose. Also, it’s my duty to vote and I will always vote, whatever the situation. So I vote. Do I vote for Muscat? No. That’s all.]

  10. lino says:

    If I recall correctly, the vote for the referendum was 36 in favour and 33 against. It was motioned by the PL; why did they accept a non-binding consultative referendum which is not legally binding albeit democratically much so.

    The PN in their majority were individually self-declared against divorce and later on even party-wise, and more so confirmed by voting against holding a referendum; so what is wrong with giving, especially the priorly self-declared MPs who voted against the referendum a free vote while making sure that the bill passes to satisfy the democratic albeit not the legal obligations of parliament.

    Parliament has to figure out how to do this, but for sure I won’t hold an MP irresponsible or undemocratic if he was consistent from A to Z throughout this whole drama.

    [Daphne – Ah, but your thinking is completely illogical and points to the dilemma the Nationalist Party faces now. If MPs have the right to vote No or absent themselves, then it follows that any and every MP may do so. So now they are reduced to drawing lots to see who votes Yes and who is allowed to polish his conscience. And that is totally, shamefully ridiculous.]

  11. Pecksniff says:

    Those who watched Bondi+ last Monday saw that Mario Demarco had to have root canal treatment without novocaine to utter, between clenched teeth, that he would vote yes (or not ?) on the divorce bill.

  12. frank says:

    I tend to liken the situation to a government MP declaring he’ll be voting with the Opposition every once in a while, with the excuse that the people who voted for the party in opposition are a minority to be respected.

  13. jb says:

    Excellently put! Only point I would add is that some of the MPs saying they will not vote Yes because of their conscience are in fact doing so only because they are making calculations on how they will personally fare on their district come next election.

    With an aging religious population such as the one at Birkirkara, can Tonio Fenech really afford to give the district away to Beppe Fenech Adami, especially after the mishaps he has had over the last couple of years?

  14. Stacy says:

    Excellent article, Daphne; you should send it to all MPs so they’ll have a better understanding of what democracy is.

    I never thought I would say this but I will lose all respect and confidence in the prime minister if he doesn’t vote YES.

    MPs cannot have it both ways. They cannot tell the people to take a decision directly in a referendum instead of doing so themselves, and then when the people have voted and made their choice, they do as they please anyway because they don’t agree with the people and because the people have failed to agree with them.

    Who the hell do some of these MPs think they are – God’s enforcers? Morality police?

    And who says that their morality and their conscience are better than mine when I in all good conscience voted YES?

    I have a very sad feeling that this will end up bringing early elections, and at the moment I wouldn’t in all honesty vote for either party. Labour is well, disgusting, and the PN have lost the plot and seem not to understand who votes for them. Very disappointing.

    • Edward Clemmer says:

      @Stacy

      “And who says that their morality and their conscience are better than mine when I in all good conscience voted YES?”

      In a democracy, one conscience (good or bad) is as good a vote as any other vote.

      For SOME moralists or confessionalists, the conscience of others may be judged as needing better indoctrination…or is that reformation.

      MOST objective moralists understand how persons of objectively “good conscience” may arrive at different decisions regarding an issue of moral value. That is why I try to tolerate and respect divergent political (and religious)opinions, especially in my own family.

      Of course, in a democracy, I’ll fight like hell for truth and justice, even if I am in the minority and outgunned. And mine is a moral position, an obligation placed upon me by my “good” conscience. And I’ll also defend the rights of others to defend their views (objectively and rationally), even if those views are not mine.

      After all, a “good” conscience is formed by reason, and not primarily by one’s personal emotion and beliefs. Yet, there is no person alive on the planet who is not also subject to values and beliefs and personal histories.

      But in a democracy, we do not impose our values on others; rather, we strive to find social consensus, defined by the socially-agreed political rules. A democracy is a morally preferred option to civil war.

      However, it seems that there will always be those (like the infamous Joe Zammit in the divorce-letters-wars to the Times, also in today’s paper) who either cannot tolerate divergent religious opinion, or who subscribe to the theory that moral truth is “singular,” and who (1) would oppose democratic processes with a singular fundamentalism, and (2) when their “truth” is opposed, they give religion (and God) a bad name [to my personal religious dismay].

      None of us is perfect, but society is not necessarily deformed if a society consists of divergent political and religious views, and if “my” personal views may not be supported by legitimate democratic processes in society.

      However, the outcome of the referendum is legitimate and is morally valid. With the outcome, there are some among the “NOs” who may be morally confused or they may feel threatened by the ambiguity of values that seem to diverge from their own perspective against YES. Welcome to pluralism and post-Modernity.

      Not every perspective is of equal value. But in a democracy, everyone’s values are provided with an equal vote, except for those who do not exercise those rights or if they fail to assume their moral obligations to vote. I don’t know where their “conscience” was, but they also made a moral choice. Bravo for those who voted.

      Now let’s see the Parliamentarians also vote, but according to the referendum result, which also is a moral obligation now that Parliament gave that decision to the electorate and the electorate provided their decision.

    • Grezz says:

      Hear, hear.

  15. silvio says:

    Well done, Daphne. One of the best articles you have written (out of those I have read). Well done.

  16. Nobbli says:

    Well said! If they vote NO they are then justifying what Alfred Sant did with the EU referendum – which is terrible!

    Moreover Gonzi is confirming that he has taken the party from an alliance of liberals and conservatives to a ‘confessional’ party – which is not what we want it to be.

    If they have a look at the result district by district they should immediately inderstand that IVA won mainly because of the votes of the liberal PN voters – which by the way has given the party one win after the other.

  17. Alan says:

    Now wait for some twat to come along and say that you wrote that piece because you didn’t get your pay-check from GonZIpN this month.

    [Daphne – Yes, my critics in the Labour Party like to have it both ways, don’t they (in some cases, literally).]

  18. lino says:

    @Kenneth Cassar & Stephen

    I wrote that the referendum as presented was not legally binding but of course I am with you that it is not to be discarded as an opinion because that would be undemocratic.

    MPs of both parties were elected on an electoral programme with no mention of divorce. Now if an MP had declared himself against, voted against a referendum, I am not of the opinion that given a free vote, he is bound to vote against his consistent convictions.

    The PM and government MPs are free to respect or discard the moral (not legal) obligation to legislate according to referendum result, with, of course, the good or bad consequences their decision may have on their political career; but in my opinion ordinary MPs who priorly declared themselves and voted against the referendum, have the right to be consistent in their vote as I have explained in other comments.

    Suppose the PN ‘whips’ its MPs to vote yes, and still some member is adamant at being consistent with his conviction, what happens then?

    [Daphne – Nothing, as we have already seen when certain Nationalist backbenchers voted recently with Labour. The prime minister cannot afford to discipline them and is held hostage by them in the same way that Sant was held hostage by the awful Mintoff in 1998. With a stronger majority in parliament, they would be subjected to party discipline and even removed from the party ticket for serious transgressions. ]

    • Kenneth Cassar says:

      [lino – I wrote that the referendum as presented was not legally binding but of course I am with you that it is not to be discarded as an opinion because that would be undemocratic].

      I’m glad you are.

      [lino – MPs of both parties were elected on an electoral programme with no mention of divorce].

      Irrelevant. That’s the point of referendums – to legislate on something that was not in electoral programmes. MPs, then, have two options – to take the decision themselves, or to leave it to the electorate through a referendum.

      [lino – Now if an MP had declared himself against, voted against a referendum, I am not of the opinion that given a free vote, he is bound to vote against his consistent convictions].

      Did any MP vote against the holding of the referendum?

      [lino – The PM and government MPs are free to respect or discard the moral (not legal) obligation to legislate according to referendum result, with, of course, the good or bad consequences their decision may have on their political career; but in my opinion ordinary MPs who priorly declared themselves and voted against the referendum, have the right to be consistent in their vote as I have explained in other comments].

      Who are these MPs who voted against holding a referendum?

      [lino – Suppose the PN ‘whips’ its MPs to vote yes, and still some member is adamant at being consistent with his conviction, what happens then?].

      He either resigns, or shows himself to be undemocratic.

  19. j busuttil says:

    I did not know all this fuss about the parliamentary vote on divorce. In the referendum there was those who voted Yes, No or abstained. The Yes vote won. So let Parliamentarians vote yes,no or abstain as the yes vote prevails.

  20. il-Ginger says:

    Excellent post, well done Daphne.

    Vote or Resign. Titn***ikx bil-poplu, Gonzi.

  21. Lorna saliba says:

    Daphne, when will you ever accept the fact that Maltese politicians do not resign, ever.

    We have had our finance minister travelling on a private jet with two heavyweight entrepreneurs and colluding with them to get the Dragonara Casino. We have witnessed the power station saga whereby a handful of people received a commission packet of four million euros.

    [Daphne – The commission was paid by the company to the broker – such commission always is, hence ‘commission agents’. Every time the government buys something, the company’s representative in Malta gets commission. That is the normal course of business. Also, common sense should tell you that it could not possibly have been four million euros. Commission on tenders is usually 5%. As for the private jet and the Dragonara, the finance minister was wrong to take that trip – not because it meant he was corrupt, but because it gave the wrong impression, created the perception of corruption and embarrassed his government. But the Dragonara Casino went to somebody else. I thought I should tell you that.]

    Scandals never seem to stop but instead of resignations we endure endless cover-ups and political smokscreens and most recently decoys in order to divert our attention from the real situation.

    We have witnessed the leader of one of the more prominent unions contest an MEP election with a political party when his interests should be towards his members against the continual scourge of government mismanaged policy.

    Yes regrettably our only option is Joseph Muscat and as much as it hurts me to say this, his position as prime minister is being secured with each passing day of this government’s remaining in office.

    [Daphne – I part company with you there. My considered belief is that we will actually be worse off with Joseph Muscat as prime minister. You can say what you like about Gonzi, but one thing is certain and that is he isn’t stupid. What we are seeing here is how a person can be wholly derailed by religious beliefs. But when it comes to choosing on intellect, experience, ability and yes, even personality, Gonzi wins hands down. Imagine having lunch with Joseph Muscat, for heaven’s sake. It would be about as jolly and interesting as listening to a physics lecture.]

    No matter how much welfare benefits Gonzi PN will dish out next budget and how many new housing subsidies our social parasites will enjoy, we are doomed to see Labour come to power.

  22. ciccio2011 says:

    Daphne, I now had the time to read through the whole article. Very well penned. Harsh as your words may seem, they are fair and democratic.

  23. Zorro II says:

    Why is it that in this god-forsaken island everytime one is objective in one’s thinking and even as much as criticises the party one usually supports (in my case and yours, the party in government) one is labelled a turncoat, disloyal, the works?

    Daphne, with your excellent writing, your gutsy opinions, your apt interjections as above, you prove so clearly that brains should take precedence over blind loyalty. Maybe one day, and sadly I doubt if it will be in this century, we will eventually mature as a nation.

  24. Frank says:

    Make no mistake, democracy is in crisis in Malta. The fact that thugs are not bashing people with chains and burning buildings should not lead us to underestimate the depth and the vileness of the danger that we are all in.

    We truly have shabby parliamentarians. At the moment the only difference between the two sides of the house is that the Nationalists tend to be better dressed. Azzjoni Kattolika not politics rules the land, and what is scarier is that a substantial amount of the population seems to want it.

  25. lino says:

    @Kenneth Cassar
    Please refer to my post
    THURSDAY, 2 JUNE AT 1450HRS
    If I recall correctly, the vote for the referendum was 36 in favour and 33 against. It was motioned by the PL; why did they accept a non-binding consultative referendum which is not legally binding albeit democratically much so. et seq.

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