Malta Government

Malta – a democratic state, evolved as an independent nation in 1964 and later in 1974, became a constitutional republic. The Head of State (President) is the authority to appoint the Head of Government (Prime Minister) as the leader of the party that gains a plurality of seats in the elections. The President is appointed by the Prime Minister in consultation with the cabinet members. The police are headed by a civilian commissioner under the effectual supervision of the Government. An independent judiciary sustains the Constitution’s protections for individual rights and freedoms. Cultural and religious patterns strengthen the consistency of the Maltese society.

The Political infrastructure in Malta comprises of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Malta is the head of government, and of a combined system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. Since Independence, the party system has been dominated by the Christian Democratic Nationalist Party (Partit Nazzjonalista) and the Social Democratic Malta Labour Party (Partit Laburista).

Political developments since independence Two parties dominate Malta’s polarized and evenly divided politics: the Nationalist Party – Partit Nazzjonalista – led by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, and the Malta Labour Party – Partit Laburista – led by Alfred Sant. Elections invariably generate a widespread voter turnout exceeding 96%. Prior to the May 1987 election, the Maltese constitution was amended to ensure that the party that obtained more than 50% of the popular vote would have a majority of seats in parliament and would thereby form the government. The then Labour Party government proposed this constitutional amendment in exchange for Nationalist Party (in opposition at the time) agreeing to entrenching neutrality and non-alignment in the Constitution

Elections in Malta are based on the single transferable vote system, which is a variant of the proportional representation electoral system.

The 1996 elections resulted in the election of the Labour Party by 8,000 votes to replace the Nationalists who had won in 1987 and 1992. Voter turnout was characteristically high at 96% with the Labour Party receiving 50.72%, the Nationalist Party 47.8%, the Democratic Alternative 1.46%, and independent candidates 0.02%. In 1998 the Labour Party lost a parliamentary vote, leading the Prime Minister to call an early election. The Nationalist Party was returned to office in September 1998 by a majority of 13,000 votes, holding a five-seat majority in Parliament. Voter turnout was 95%, with the Nationalist Party receiving 51.81%, the Labour Party 46.97%, the Democratic Alternative 1.21%, and independent candidates 0.01%.

The Nationalist government completed discussions for European Union membership by the end of 2002. A referendum on the issue was called in March 2003 for which the Nationalists and the Democratic Alternative asked for a “yes” vote while Labour asked its supporters to vote “no”, invalidate their vote or abstain. Turnout was 91% with more than 53% voting “yes”.

The Labour Party argued that the “yes” votes amounted to less than 50% of the overall votes, hence, and referring to the Integration referendum as an example, they claimed that the “yes” hadn’t in fact won the referendum. Parliament was ultimately dissolved and fresh elections were called as a final word on the matter. The Nationalists were returned to office with 51.79% of the vote to Labour’s 47.51%. The Democratic Alternative managed 0.68%. The Nationalists were thus able to form a government and sign and ratify the EU Accession Treaty.

The House of Representatives has 65 members, elected for a five year term in 13 multi-seat constituencies with a chance of rewarding bonus members for the popular largest party which doesn’t succeed in getting absolute majority in parliament.

Courthouse, VallettaMalta’s judiciary is sovereign. The President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoints the chief justice and 16 judges, who retire at the age of 65. There is a civil court, a commercial court, and a criminal court. In the latter, the presiding judge sits with a jury of nine. The civil court hears appeals from decisions of the civil court and of the commercial court. The criminal court hears appeals from judgments of conviction by the criminal court. The highest court, the Constitutional Court, hears appeals in cases involving violations of human rights, interpretation of the constitution, and invalidity of laws. It also has jurisdiction in cases regarding disputed parliamentary elections and electoral corrupt practices. There also are inferior courts presided over by a magistrate.

Malta is distributed into 68 elected local councils, with each council responsible for the administration of cities or regions of varying sizes. Administrative responsibility is distributed between the local councils and the central government in Valletta. The Local Councils Act, 1993 (Act XV of 1993) was published on June 30, 1993, subdividing Malta into 54 local councils in Malta and 14 in Gozo. The registered residents elect the Council for a period of 3 years. The mayor is the head of the Local Council and the representative of the Council for all effects under the Act. The Executive Secretary, who is appointed by the Council, is the executive, administrative, and financial head of the Council. All decisions are taken collectively with the other members of the Council. Local councils are responsible for the general upkeep and embellishment of the locality, local wardens, and refuse collection, and carry out general administrative duties for the central government such as collection of government rents and funds, and answering government-related public inquiries.

As a vital division of the e-Government programme, the Ministry for Information Technology and Investment offers the e-Government services using multiple service delivery channels, apart from the World Wide Web. Mobile telephony service is more relevant due to the fact that 64%1 of the Maltese population own a mobile phone. The m-Government project brings together both mobile telecoms providers in Malta, the telecoms regulator and Government’s IT agencies. One important factor that influences in the embracing of mobile telephony as a channel for e-Government is its popularity in Malta.

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