Justice and Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg had a nice Independence Day gift for the Maltese electorate. It risks changing Independence Day to a general Vaffanculo Day dedicated to all voters courtesy of MLPN. From today’s Times:
The Constitution is to be amended so that when only two parties are elected to the House, parliamentary seats will be assigned strictly in proportion to the votes each party has won nationally, Justice and Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg announced yesterday. This will mean that the electoral boundaries will become irrelevant for the strength of the parties in Parliament, removing the possibility of gerrymandering to advantage either of them.
Charming. Yes Minister, we will all be applauding this fantastic move of democratic genius. What does this mean exactly? Here is what j’accuse reads between the lines of such a declaration of intent:
1. 33 years of gerrymandering
Since its fledgling years as an Independent state, Maltese voters have been in the unenviable position of having their right to determine the formation of Parliament held hostage by the MLPN. The division of the electorate into districts with thresholds has always meant that the overall national vote meant jack-s to the final outcome. This latter factor was slightly tweaked after the 1981 result meant that a Nationalist party with an overall national majority had to suffer the ignominy of a further five years of opposition. The main scope of gerrymandering was to shift district lines in such a way as to try and ensure that more MPs for the party in government were elected in a particular district – to the detriment of the opposition.
2. The National Vote Counts (but…)
The MLPN needed a way out of the gerrymandering situation. They cannot risk losing their stronghold on national politics based on alternation. How to do it? Creating a parliament based on only national quotas is too big a risk for the Old Cronies. Had they come up with the idea of giving all parties representation in Parliament based on their votes obtained Nationally (with some minimum percentage of votes) the risk of a third party breaking into the arena would have been too high. Hence the farcical qualification: “when only two parties are elected to the House”. Right. So first make sure that you retain the status quo then, once the other pests are rid of you can proceed to partition fairly. Surely a twisted sense of fairness.
3. What’s good for the Goose
Why twisted? Because the intended changes are an open admission that the national vote should count for more than counting the famous “tkaxkira” (sound beating). They are an admission that when the electorate speaks as a whole it would only be fair that Parliament reflects such intent proportionally. In other words what is good for the geese (MLPN) should also be good for the gander (third forces) which are able to garner a respectable amount of votes that warrants a seat in the Parliament.
The positive outcome of this move is that having taken this direction there should be no going back. More pressure is needed from different lobby groups, and I do not only mean Alternattiva – but potential Liberal (free thinking) movements and, why not, even the Ultra-Conservatives with whom J’accuse does not see eye-to-eye. In Italy Beppe Grillo’s movement (see Vaffanculo Day) has made proper representation a top priority in its lobbying effort.
They too have a problem with the way the secretariat of the different parties divvy up the places in Parliament after the people have voted. In both cases what the electorate wants is transparency. If the MLPN are worried that people will vote for a third party should there be proper rules of representation the answer should not be cosmetic changes of the Constitution in their favour but a big effort to clean up their act.