Power without responsibility

In a memorandum to political parties the Malta Employers’ Association has proposed that Malta should introduce the possibility to appoint technocrats to Parliament and to Cabinet.

Parliament is a representative body. In democratic societies Membership of Parliament is the result of being voted into office. There is no role for unelected technocrats in Parliament in a democracy. Technocrats can always contest elections and if elected they will form part of Parliament as of right.

The appointment of technocrats to Cabinet on the other hand would mean giving powers to unaccountable Ministers, if these have not been previously elected as Members of Parliament!

We have had a “technocrat in Cabinet” for a number of years, Richard Cachia Caruana!  In Malta it is the best example one can find of the use of political power without the shouldering of political responsibility. His Excellency undoubtedly exercised political power, even if unofficially, without submitting himself to the electorate’s consideration. He always preferred to remain in the shadows. His role is well known right up to his being removed by Parliament last summer.

Earlier during the 70s we had “technocrats” from the General Workers Union (GWU) who formed part of Cabinet. They participated in Cabinet meetings in view of the then fusion between the Labour Party and the GWU. They had no executive discretion but their participation in Cabinet meetings had some influence on decisions taken.

The appointment of unelected technocrats in a position whereby they exercise political discretion  is a proposal which is alien to the Maltese political system and would take Malta back to when the British Governor, generally a retired senior military person representing the colonial power, used to appoint a number of Maltese experts (including some bootlickers) to advise him, sometimes granting them executive powers in a so called Council of Government.

As rightly said by the FORUM of Maltese Trade Unions, the Malta Employers’ Association proposal is dangerous as if it is taken up it would reduce further the accountability of Cabinet.  Parliament is already very weak in that it has not been capable throughout the years to hold government to account. The proposal to introduce unelected technocrats in Cabinet would further weaken Parliament as it would allocate power without the corresponding responsibility.

Some may argue that technocrats would be neutral politically as they would not be subject to electoral pressures. This is incorrect as technocrats have their own political allegiances, their own political agendas and their own views of society.  Nothing wrong with that, accept that not being subject to the electorate is compounded with Malta’s weak Parliamentary set-up. Malta’s Parliament is a weakling which has very rarely been capable of scrutinising Cabinet’s operations effectively.

On TVam earlier this week Joe Farrugia of the Malta Employers’ Association stated that he was negatively impressed by the operation of Parliament in the past weeks. If a number of MPs are mediocre Joe Farrugia should address his concerns to the PN and the PL and ask them to select more appropriate parliamentary candidates!

Political power should be accompanied by accountability. Technocratic government as suggested by the Malta Employer’s Association would be a step backwards in the political development of this country.

published on di-ve.com on 2 November 2012

Also on this blog : RCC kien uffiċjal politiku. 

5 comments on “Power without responsibility

  1. Practically all democratic countries have some way of appointing non-elected persons to cabinet posts. In UK there is the House of Lords, in USA secretaries of state are appointed and not elected, and in most European countries persons who are not members of Parliament can be appointed ministers. The fact that a person is not elected to Parliament does not mean he is not accountable. In USA secretaries of state are appointed by the President and accountable to him but their appointment has to be ratified by Congress. In UK members of the House of Lords are technically members of Parliament but they are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. I fully agree with the proposal that there is some mechanism in the Maltese Constitution for the appointment of cabinet ministers who are not members of Parliament.

  2. I agree with the reasoning in this article. Malta has had – and still has – too many bootlickers and inefficient M.P.s and even MEPs about. The pity is that the politically appointed trash negatively affect the efficient!
    People are scandalized about the parliamentary situation especially during the last few months when the Prime Minister arrogantly continued ”governing” notwithstanding the fact that he has no real majority. How’s that for serious acccountability by parliamentarians?
    When RCC was appointed Permanent Commissioner most Maltese asked: Who the hell is this guy? There’s political allegiance for you! Party interests before National.

  3. If people do not elect capable MPs, if people remain tied to their tribe and vote in chickens as long as they are on the party list, then so be it – they must suffer the consequences of their choices…that is what democracy is all about – the will of the people.

  4. The crux of the matter is not on the ‘technical’ qualities (these can be purchased), but rather on the personal ‘integrity’ – that exudes commitment and focus on the long term sustainable common good.

    Roll on a handpicked cabinet of the likes of Marco Cremonas, Martin Sciclunas, Mark Montebellos, Max Ganados, Joseph Falzons, Astrid Vellas and your goodself – alas if possible, a Fr.Peter clone as well…..

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