25 May Riformi Kostituzzjonali (8) : Maltatoday 2 t’April 2012
Franco Debono, 2nd April 2012, Maltatoday : “The people don’t want home visits, be it the kitchen or sitting room. They want action. This country does not need clientelist sprees but a stronger democracy by means of constitutional and political reforms and accountability.”
National Monday 2 April 2012 – 19:08
Nationalists risk losing fifth district seat, MP Franco Debono warns
Fifth district MP says the local council results shows he represents constituents’ sentiments.
Nationalist MP Franco Debono, one of two PN candidates elected from the fifth electoral district, has warned that the results of local elections held in March indicate that the PN might lose one of its seats on the district.
Debono told MaltaToday that the PN had suffered “an incredible meltdown in its vote”, and that it risked returning just one MP to parliament from the district, considering the 20% share of the vote in Birzebugia, Marsaxlokk and Zurrieq which are the largest localities of the district.
“This haemorrhage of votes only happened four years after the fifth district was one of the best districts for the PN in the 2008 elections,” Debono said.
In the 2008 general election, the PN gained 38.3% of the vote in the fifth district, and earned two seats out of five. Compared to the 2003 general election, the PN maintained its level of support in the district and only registered a marginal decrease of 0.4%, while registering a 2.4% decrease nationwide.
In 2008, the PN fielded a number of political heavyweights with Cabinet ministers Louis Galea and Ninu Zammit and parliamentary secretary Helen D’Amato. However, Zammit was the only one of the trio to get elected. The other seat was secured by Franco Debono, who was elected to parliament for the first time on the highest first-preference count.
“I have been campaigning for upgraded infrastructure, a cleaner, healthier environment, better sports facilities, better roads and the removal of health hazards from the area, but most of this fell on deaf ears,” Debono said about the heavily industrialised area which includes Birzebbugia, Kirkop, Marsaxlokk, Mqabba, Qrendi, Safi, Zurrieq and Bubaqra.
“The results show that I represent the sentiment of my constituents – including hundreds of PN voters – who are not happy with the way matters are being handled, on a national and regional level.”
During the last round of local elections held earlier this month, Labour gained 270 votes in all 35 localities, while the PN lost 11,579 votes. Apart from losing votes in traditional Nationalist strongholds, the PN also fared badly in red-leaning localities.
In Birzebbugia, Zurrieq, Safi, Kirkop and Marsaxlokk – which all form part of the fifth electoral district – the PN lost 1,470 votes. The PN lost 29.5% of its vote in the five localities in which the voter turnout did not change much from the previous round.
The PN lost votes in every locality, with the biggest blow being Zurrieq, where the PN lost 1,047 votes when compared to 2008. The voter turnout in Zurrieq only decreased by 2%, however the PN suffered a spectacular loss and only elected three out of 11 councillors.
The PN also lost councillors in every locality except in Marsaxlokk, where the PN maintained the one seat it already held.
In Kirkop and Birzebbugia, the PN lost a councillor on each locality and decreased its votes by more than 5% in both localities.
Safi, was considered to be a blue bastion for years, given that Nationalist stalwart Pietru Pawl Busuttil was mayor of the small town since the first local election. However, the PN not only decreased its share of votes, but it also lost a councillor and the mayorship of Safi. The surprise result suggests that some voters could have switched sides in Safi.
In the run-up to the local council elections, Pietru Pawl Busuttil was behind the circulation of a petition calling for the resignation of Franco Debono for his disagreement with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. Since then, the petition seems to have disappeared.
Busuttil’s decision to stand by and defend the Prime Minister in his showdown with Franco Debono might have affected his standing in Safi, as the former mayor did not retain his position.
In a clear reference to the Prime Minister’s recent appeal to the PN and government MPs to visit families in their kitchens to hear and understand their hurts, needs and aspirations, Debono said that he has been warning the Nationalist Party that “people were complaining, because I represent those people and I know what they have been saying”.
“Contact with the people is very important but better institutions would necessitate less home visits.”
“The people don’t want home visits, be it the kitchen or sitting room. They want action. This country does not need clientelist sprees but a stronger democracy by means of constitutional and political reforms and accountability,” he added.
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