Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco, the only member of the government who has so far declared he will vote in favour of divorce in Parliament, has explained the reasons for his decision.
“Whilst I have my personal reservations on the concept of a ‘no fault’ divorce, I recognise and accept that as parliamentarians we should now concentrate on putting through a Bill that reflects the wishes of the people as expressed in the referendum," he said.
It was indeed us parliamentarians who opted to put the matter before the people to voice their opinion to us. In the circumstances, therefore, the result of the referendum cannot be ignored and must be respected.
"Parliament must now seek to put into effect the decision of the people as expressed in the referendum. I will be playing my part to ensure that this is done by voting in favour of a bill that reflects the principles underlying the question part in the referendum.
"I will moreover exercise my role as a parliamentarian to ensure that the bill contains all necessary safeguards to protect the interests of the children and the duty to pay maintenance. I, nevertheless, respect the decision of those parliamentarians who deem it opportune to vote against the proposed bill or abstain, for personal reasons.”
Earlier this week, Dr de Marco said the efforts of the Nationalist Party should be to ensure that the liberal and conservative elements within it continue working together.
Writing in The Times, he said that the process of implementing the will of the people as expressed in last Saturday's referendum should in itself provide an opportunity for this healing process to take place.
Dr de Marco said the PN and its followers need to take stock of the referendum experience.
"The strength of the PN lies in the spectrum of opinions it represents. We build our policies, faithful to our Christian Democratic principles but in a manner that respects both the liberal and conservative elements of our party. We are a party with a heart in the right place but a centre left way of doing things.
"This coalition approach returned a majority support for the PN in six out of the past seven general elections. It also delivered the Yes vote in the European Union membership referendum. More importantly, it has enabled the PN in government to transform this country from a cocooned, inefficient state with questionable democratic credentials to a vibrant, pluralistic and open society that can hold its own among the states of Europe.
"The divorce debate tested this coalition approach. It posed a difficult terrain for the PN because it provided no common ground for liberals and conservatives to meet upon.
"Faced with this challenge, the party took a stand on the issue but allowed its members to express themselves independently of the party’s position. Some questioned this stance arguing that, by taking such a stand, the party was conditioning the views of its exponents.
"The referendum result shows there was strong cross-party voting on this issue, which could be interpreted as justifying the position of those who felt that political parties should have stayed aloof of this debate. It was not an easy situation to resolve.
"With the referendum behind us, our efforts as a party should be to ensure that the liberal and conservative elements within our party continue working together. The process of implementing the will of the people as expressed in last Saturday’s referendum should in itself provide an opportunity for this healing process to take place.
"Beyond that, we have a mandate to lead this country for the next two years. We have a responsibility to look ahead, as we are doing, and projecting Malta into the future. This we can only do if we build on the critical success factor: our wide-base support.
"The different voices of this PN, not unlike a choir, might have different pitches, might be singing different notes but, ultimately, have the same goal.
The other Nationalist MPs who had declared they will vote Yes are David Agius, Karl Gouder, Jesmond Mugliett, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Michael Gonzi and Franco Debono.
Robert Arrigo, Joe Falzon, and Jean Pierre Farrugia are also expected to vote Yes.
Minister Austin Gatt and MP Beppe Fenech Adami have declared they will vote No. Minister Giovanna Debono and MP Edwin Vassallo are also expected to vote No.