Since independence, Malta has been led, ruled and shared by Labour and Nationalist governments, and we are witnessing the result in the present scenario of an unhealthy and bipartisan political system.
The Democratic Party’s representation in Parliament has, for the first time, introduced a multi-party system and is striving hard to fix this broken political system, which has descended to the very roots of society, in a modus operandi of ‘us and them’ and ‘anything goes’.
It is evident that an unspoken, binding agreement exists between the two major parties led by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition leader Adrian Delia. They both want to elbow the PD out. Their loyalty to their party, and not the public interest, dictates this agenda.
We are living in an era where we have two different applications to the rule of law. One is binding and addresses society, and the other is full of legal loopholes to accommodate the patronage of the two major political parties, both in the House and outside it. A case in point is the way the constitutional reform is being handled by both parties, as if it were a back room deal.
Simply stated, the Constitution is a social contract between people about how a nation is organised, so that there is peace, justice and fairness. Our present Constitution is failing Malta, as it has not been nurtured throughout the past decade, and this has pushed our democracy into limbo. Malta has a government which operates in a manner that is not righteously correct, as it is not limited by law.
The Democratic Party is for a bottom-up approach. A road map, with concrete remits, timelines and resources should be established
My query is simple. How committed is the government to strengthening the supremacy of the Constitutional Court and to adopt a control system to the rule of law, which is enforced by a competent and independent judiciary?
The government failed to implement the reform in the last legislature, and it seems that this time round, it wants to rush its own workings through.
We are living in times where state institutions are failing to honour the rule of law and where the power of the government has become stronger, and that of the Opposition weaker. We have a system where the openness and accountability of government is very limited and where ministers perceive themselves to be above the law and where too much power is vested in the Prime Minister.
The need to have a strong and supreme Constitutional Court is a must, since it is critically important to have the rule of law principles entrenched. At present, we have no rule of law control system but only institutional provisions and a human rights system.
This is the system adopted by all modern democracies, and its objective is to constrain abuse of power, ensure equal treatment of citizens and guarantee that public power is used in the public interest. The Venice Convention Malta Report misses the latter point totally.
A vibrant democratic society also calls for a better system of separation of powers and appropriate checks and balances that adopt good governance and concrete steps to fight corruption, respect human lives, and be the true guardians of our environment.
With these facts in mind, the PD has presented ‘A First Brief of Constitutional Reform’ proposals to President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca that includes 12 salient points. These hallmark a Malta Constitutional Reform.
In the working process of the reform, the Democratic Party is for a bottom-up approach. A road map, with concrete remits, timelines and resources should be established. PD is of the opinion that a Constitutional Convention would be the ideal platform where a wide consultation process with all stakeholders should take place, away from the direct influence of politicians. A technical commission composed of local and international legal experts should assist the convention in the drafting of the new Constitution of the Republic of Malta.
The well-being of our democracy depends on how much we cherish it. Democracy needs the backing of a well-written Constitution.
Godfrey Farrugia is leader of the Democratic Party.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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