The Green vote in last week’s general election increased by 45 per cent over the 2008 polls. Alternattiva Demokratika candidates polled a total of 5,506 votes: a 1.8 per cent share of the national vote. But these voters have no voice in the newly-elected Parliament.
We have heard during the past days of the constitutional mechanisms that restore proportionality in Parliament between votes cast in the general election and the parliamentary strength of the political parties. Malta’s electoral system guarantees proportionality but only for the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party. Our parliamentary democracy must be based on fairness and the current state of affairs is anything but fair. The fact that 5,500 voters chose to be represented by AD is a bold political statement. Every voter has the right to be represented. That is what representative democracy is about. It is useless to emphasise that we should all work together and simultaneously ignore such a statement.
...The interests of voters opting for democratic change outside the two-party system was ignored- Carmel Cacopardo
The voice of these 5,500 Maltese citizens should be heard loud and clear. They are subject to the same duties and responsibilities as the other voters who are represented. They are subject to the same laws and pay the same taxes.
It is a basic principle of parliamentary democracy that there should be no taxation without representation. This constitutional principle was forcefully made 800 years ago in the Magna Carta in 1215 when the British monarchy was forced to relinquish part of its absolute powers laying the foundations for the formation of the mother of democratic Parliaments at Westminster.
This constitutional principle signifies that Parliament derives its moral and legal authority from its being representative. Being representative gives Parliament its moral authority to legislate.
Parliament is, in fact, aptly called the House of Representatives.
AD voters demand that their right to be represented is respected. This respect can only be manifested if their choices made on March 9 are translated into effective representation in the House of Representatives. The House, as presently constituted, does not represent the 5,500 AD voters because none of the MPs elected are authorised to speak on their behalf.
Throughout the years, Parliament has discussed electoral reform many a time. It has tweaked the system through the introduction of constitutional amendments in 1987, 1996 and 2007. The electoral system is certainly much better today than it was in 1981.
The amendments then were required but they only addressed the interests of major political parties and their voters. The interests of voters opting for democratic change outside the two-party system was conveniently ignored.
The constant message sent by the PN and the PL that change is only possible through the two large parties has been constantly rejected by a small but significant number of voters. We speak of democratic change as ultimately accepting the will of the majority. This, however, does not include the suffocation of minorities irrespective of their size. But this is what has been done throughout the years.
In Malta’s political history, there was a time when both the PN and the PL were small in size and almost insignificant.
Labour was represented in Malta’s Parliament by one solitary MP, Sir Paul Boffa, in the pre-war years. It was a political party organised outside and in opposition to the two-party system. It prevailed throughout the years and proved the power of the ballot to defy the two-party system.
Likewise, the PN was small and insignificant in the post-war years when Labour, under the leadership of Sir Paul Boffa, achieved the largest electoral landslide (59 per cent) ever registered by a political party in Malta. Yet, it was possible for the PN to rise once more from being a party of insignificant size to a major political force.
In view of the above, the declarations of Labour MP Evarist Bartolo that AD’s 5,500 voters should be represented in Parliament in a truly democratic system is welcome.
Bartolo has been consistent in his position as he made similar statements in 2008.
Unfortunately, then, Parliament’s Select Committee entrusted with considering constitutional changes to reinforce democratic governance did not function.
AD also welcomes the statements made by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that the matter should be addressed.
The changes to the electoral system also require the support of the PN, which has not expressed itself on the matter, even though a number of its electoral candidates have already declared their support publicly.
It is time to stand up and be counted. AD has always been available to cooperate and present its proposals as it has done continuously. But voters also demand that AD be respected and its electoral strength duly represented in Parliament.
To date, those voting AD have had their voice suffocated. We await the Government’s reactions, which will, hopefully, indicate that it really believes that the will of all voters is respected.
Carmel Cacopardo is deputy chairman of Alternattiva Demokratika.
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