Malta’s current electoral system will go under the lens tonight as iDEAT, Partit Laburista’s progressive think tank is organising a seminar entitled “Malta’s electoral system: time for renewal?”
The need for an electoral reform has long been floated, with academics and activists raising questions as to whether Malta’s Single Transferable System, introduced in 1921, needs a revamp to reflect today’s realities.
The two most recent changes to the electoral system were introduced in 2018 and earlier this year, with the voting age for general elections lowered to 16 years of age, and the corrective mechanism ensuring gender equality, respectively.
Panellists in tonight’s discussion include Speaker of the House of Representatives Dr Anglu Farrugia, Professors Godfrey Pirotta and Ian Refalo, and Labour’s Vice President and Head of Electoral Office Louis Gatt.
Speaking to TheJournal.mt, iDEAT Chairperson Dr Elaine Degiorgio said that the idea behind the panel is to have not only the legal and historical point of views, but also the practical side of our electoral system.
iDEAT Chairperson Dr Elaine Degiorgio
“I expect a fruitful discussion. A mature understanding of how the Maltese electoral system works, its flaws and a basis for a broader discussion on how we can make the necessary changes for the better. Several amendments have been made throughout the past years with the latest being the corrective mechanisms on gender representation in Parliament. These will all be under the lens,” said Dr Degiorgio.
Asked whether this means that the current system doesn’t work, she said that restlessness is part of a progressive’s identity.
“Yes, the system works, it is democratic and almost 100% of those eligible to vote do so in all elections. Therefore, we have a strong democracy which elects a Government, a local council etc. This however does not mean that we should not strive to make it better. The moment we stop discussing, the moment we think we have it all, would be the day we change our course.”
Activists for an electoral reform argue that the current system is there to protect the current two-party system. Asked about this, Dr Degiorgio referred to instances when Parliament had to approve amendments to the system so that it reflects the voting intentions of the people.
“But does all this mean that the system is fair? Can you say it is there to protect two parties? It’s not a matter of a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer because the current system works and people can democratically choose their Government and representatives. However, I believe that, we need to look further into our system and analyse the nitty gritty to ensure it always reflects the will of the people.”
One of PL’s 100 Ideas
Partit Laburista has pledged a national discussion on the current electoral system in its 100 Ideas document launched this summer.
Speaking at a conference in July, Partit Laburista President Dr Ramona Attard said that the country should not shy away from discussing alternatives to the Single Transferable Vote system.
“We can say we are comfortable with the current electoral system and that it certainly served us well in recent years, but we want this project to serve as a platform for us to dream and ask if the system can improve,” Dr Attard had declared.
“The principle should be one of equality. Is there equality in people’s chances of getting elected depending on whether they’re from Malta or Gozo or one district and not the other? Are services the same everywhere? Are the Maltese treated equally, are foreigners treated equally? We should ask these questions.”
TheJournal.mt has also raised the electoral reform issue in its Editorial on 10 July, arguing that it doesn’t make sense to have the largest Parliament per capita in the EU. Other questions include whether it’s time to act on full-time Members of Parliament and whether to introduce the Robson Rotation system in order to stop the recent trend of politicians changing surnames to ensure they are first on the ballot sheet.
Tonight’s event will be the first in a series of activities organised by Partit Laburista as part of its National Conference entitled “Inġeddu Malta flimkien” (Renewing Malta Together).
You can join tonight’s event on iDEAT’s Facebook page.