ELECTION DIARY | Sunday, 07 October 2007

Comeback time

charlot zahra

The return of the windy autumn season led to the comeback of the television schedules choc-a-bloc with inviting programmes, some of them as new as a squeaking shoe while others are revamped with the hope of retaining their audiences and possibly gain new viewers.
In view of the impending general elections, news and current affairs programmes on all local television stations have gained added importance as the electoral campaign gets to a crescendo and politicians will be hogging the air waves to get their message across.
First in line to kick off the autumn series of political programmes was a debate between Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Opposition leader Alfred Sant on “Bondiplus”, which was hastily moved at the last moments to Monday nights after having been slotted in its Tuesday evening slot.
The host of the night was Where’s Everybody? co-captain Lou Bondi, sporting a striped shirt with braces, in reverence of the style usually adopted by his cousin Austin Gatt.
Analysts said that during this debate, Sant had an opportunity to make good for the lacklustre performance during his speech at the Mass Fest in Pretty Bay on the eve of Independence Day.
Indeed, he emerged as the slightly more confident performer in the art of the television debate, looking calm and on the ball when faced with Bondi’s firing line and Gonzi’s snides.
Throughout the debate, Gonzi, who looked reasonably edgy strongly defended his track record since he took office as Prime Minister in March 2004.
Asked point blank by Bondi why he failed to make a cabinet reshuffle since taking over as Prime Minister, Gonzi said he had no regrets doing so, standing four-square behind his Cabinet in spite of the various scandals in the past three years of the Gonzi premiership. “I do not regret not changing my ministers. We have achieved,” said Gonzi.
On the other hand, Sant insisted that in the country there is now a huge wave in favour of change and it was clear that the Labour Party was the party which would produce that renewal. “The people want change. The people need good governance. That is where you are failing, that is where my government will be delivering,” said Sant.
As Sant listed a series of alleged corruption cases which shook Gonzi’s Government, the latest being the land compensation given to Minister for Resources and Infrastructure Ninu Zammit, the Prime Minister defended himself by constantly referring to Sant’s claims as “mudslinging” and saying that he is more interested in what European Central Bank Governor Jean-Claude Trichet says than what Sant says
Sant referred to German NGO Transparency International’s report on perceptions of corruption in Malta, which for this year has registered a turn for the worse. “If today there had been a Labour Government under my leadership, something like this would have worried me a lot and I would have taken immediate action,” he insisted.
Gonzi ill-advisedly disputed the validity of the Transparency International report about Malta, blaming the methodology of the survey for the country’s poor result, an ill-advised move given the public’s perceptions on the existence of corruption are well-known.
Towards the end of the debate, Sant declared that if elected he would adopt a policy of “zero tolerance on corruption, zero tolerance on wastage and be focused on good governance.”
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