The government will put its fragile majority to the test on May 9 when Parliament votes on crucial money Bill after months ofpolitical uncertainty.

The date was announced by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday after a meeting of the Nationalist Party’s parliamentary group.

The Budget Measures Implementation Bill is a money Bill and equivalent to a vote of confidence, which if lost would bring downthe government.

By law the Bill has to be approved by May 14 and the parliamentary group decided it was the most urgent matter on the agenda.

The government has shied away from bringing Bills and motions to the vote in Parliament since January when it survived a vote of no confidence with the help of the Speaker’s casting vote after PN backbencher Franco Debono abstained.

The rebellious MP has repeatedly refused to say how he will vote on the money Bill but a nay would unseat the government.

On Monday Dr Debono called for an Opposition motion censuring Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici to be discussed and voted upon ahead of the Budget Bill.

The backbencher insisted the minister should resign and shoulder political responsibilityfor mishandling his portfolio. Dr Debono has not said whether he will support the Opposition’s motion.

However, Dr Gonzi has for now averted a vote on the performance of one of his ministers and instead set up a showdown with Dr Debono on the government’s very survival. Significantly, May 9 is the 25th anniversary of the PN’s election victory in 1987 when it came to power for the first time after 16 years of Labour rule.

In a terse reaction, Dr Debono called for Dr Gonzi’s resignation. He told timesofmalta.com that if the Bill was urgent, the Prime Minister should have tackled it long ago instead of concentrating on “operation kitchens”; a dig at Dr Gonzi’s message that the government should listen more to people by being present in their kitchens.

“Lawrence Gonzi is inflicting the same harm on the political class as his uncle Archbishop Mikiel Gonzi had inflicted on the Church and he should resign,” Dr Debono said.

And the political turmoil only got worse when PN MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando yesterday appeared to be backing calls for an early election. On his Facebook wall he wrote: “Prolonging the inevitable has now not only become humiliating... it is not in the national interest.”

Parliament reconvened on Monday after an unusually long four-week Easter recess.

ksansone@timesofmalta.com

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