One of Malta's newest MPs has asked voters to stop promising him their vote in exchange for favours, saying he feels “offended” by such requests.
Oliver Scicluna made the public appeal in a Facebook post in which he argued that it was down to politicians such as himself to end the clientelism that pervades throughout Maltese politics.
Scicluna was co-opted into parliament as a Labour MP one year ago, in January 2021, and has yet to contest an election as a candidate.
“So many individuals come up to me and tell me ‘if you sort me out, I’ll keep you in mind,” Scicluna wrote.
“It’s a phrase that makes me feel uneasy, because I believe that people should get what is theirs by right, if they are entitled to it,” he said, adding that the phrase also had came with undertones of a voting threat.
Scicluna said he felt offended and hurt by such requests.
“I’m going public because I feel offended when somebody comes up to me asking for help, with the idea that they can cash in their vote for a favour…. I want the people who vote for me to do so from their heart, because they believe I can do something good, not exchange a vote for a favour,” he said.
Malta’s parliament is elected through a single transferrable vote system, with five members of parliament elected from each of 13 electoral districts. This system of proportional representation means that MPs rely on their constituents’ votes to be elected, incentivizing them to focus their energies on local affairs and concerns within their electoral districts.
It is commonplace for MPs, including ministers, to have members of their offices cold-call voters within their districts as elections approach, to see whether voters “need anything”.
Scicluna acknowledged that the system in place has been around for a long time, but made it clear he was struggling to align it with his personal values.
“It seems these things have existed for a long time,” he wrote, but I am not going to get used to them.”
His post drew many positive reactions, with Labour deputy leader Daniel Micallef saying that Malta's current electoral system was at the root of many such patronage problems.
Maltese voters will go to the polls at some point in 2022, though Prime Minister Robert Abela has not yet announced an election date.
Abela had hinted that he was keen on discussing electoral reform some months ago, but that debate has yet to materialise and the prime minister has not revealed what reforms he had in mind.