16 March 2005

The Web

Second electoral reform attempt announced for Tuesday

By James Debono

On Monday during the recording of TV programme Int X’Tahseb? PN General Secretary Joe Saliba revealed that a meeting will be held on 22 March between the three general secretaries of Malta’s political parties on electoral reform.
The secretary-generals of the other two parties were surprised that Saliba had made the meeting’s date public. This same information was also divulged to The Times on Monday. Asked by The Malta Financial and Business Times whether an agenda has been prepared for the meeting, MLP General Secretary Jason Micallef said that Saliba’s announcement was “very premature” as the three parties will only be meeting to formulate “an agenda for future meetings”.
This newspaper has been informed that the meeting will take place at the MLP headquarters. Joe Saliba was answering a question by Kurt Sansone on Alfred Sant’s declaration that the government should embark on electoral reform to ensure “strict proportionality”. The Leader of the Opposition had made the declaration during a press conference on Sunday. Joe Saliba reacted by saying, “We did not need Alfred Sant’s intervention to meet on electoral reform. We have already agreed to meet and a meeting will be held next Tuesday”.
The new round of meetings between the three parties will be the second attempt to reform Malta’s electoral system. An Electoral System Commission was set up on the 3 May 1994. According to its Terms of Reference, the Commission was asked to prepare a report with proposals which could be implemented so that while respecting the “governability” of the country”. This would also ensure that the number of Parliamentary seats of a political party would be “proportional as far as possible to the votes gained by the party in the first count”.
While the commission agreed on a mathematical report presented by Prof. Buhagiar which ensured that “every party obtains a number of seats equivalent to the number assigned to it on a national scale”, the major stumbling block remained the question of governability.
According to the Commission’s final report, the three parties failed to agree on “what happens to the votes given to the candidates of the parties that have not qualified for parliamentary representation”.
While the Nationalist Party insisted that these votes should be counted in establishing which party should govern on a last count basis, the MLP insisted that only first count votes should count in establishing which party will govern. Since losing a one-seat majority in parliament in 1998, the MLP has been insisting that the composition of parliament does not reflect proportion of votes gained by the two parties in the general elections.
After the result of last June’s European election Alternattiva Demokratika had invited the other two parties for talks on electoral reform. This will be the first meeting between the three parties since 1994.


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