A fixed-term Parliament

At this point in time, within the party we are discussing our electoral Manifesto for the forthcoming general election. When will it be held: shortly or much later? At the time of writing no official announcement has been made. Maybe by the time this article is printed matters would be clear.

When presenting proposals for the consideration of the ever-pending Constitutional Convention, we had as a party considered the matter in some detail: should the Prime Minister have the discretion to advise on the dissolution of Parliament?  This was one of the “rights” of Kings and Queens which have been inherited by Heads of Government as a result of democratisation. Since independence it has been the Prime Minister’s right in Malta to advise that Parliament be dissolved and that an election be called.

Over two years have now elapsed since we proposed to the Constitutional Convention that Parliament should have a fixed term and that the election date should be fixed.

Such a provision is normally associated with the American experience on the first Tuesday of the month of November: every alternate year electing the House of Representatives, every four years for electing the President and for electing a third of the Senate every two years.

In the United Kingdom the Liberal-Conservative coalition had in 2011 introduced a fixed-term Parliament Act as a result of which, for the first time ever, the Prime Minister’s role in determining the date of dissolution of Parliament and the subsequent holding of a general election were severely curtailed.

Nick Clegg, then Liberal leader and Deputy Prime Minister had, in piloting the relevant act in Parliament, described such a move stripping Prime Ministers of the power to pick election dates to maximise party advantage as a profound reform. He further emphasised that such a reform was essential to restore faith in politics.

The introduction of a constitutional provision for a fixed-term Parliament would entail removing political self-interest from election timing.

Of course, all Prime Ministers, with tears in their eyes, plead national interest whenever they make use of this discretion.

It would be interesting if we could have an explanation as to what “national interest justification” exists for having a snap-election in Malta at this point in time. Robert Abela’s justification could be as follows.

The first reason to justify a snap election is that come January 2022 a criminal jury relative to the failed HSBC hold-up is scheduled. Possible revelations could spot-light the alleged role of senior Labour Party politicians in the planning of this failed hold-up. Probably Robert Abela thinks that having clear information as to who was involved in planning the HSBC hold-up is not in our interest. It is definitely not in the interest of the Labour Party as it could unmask the Labour Party for what it really is: an eye-opener to some!

The second reason to justify a snap election is the turbulent energy market which could play havoc with the costs to generate electricity locally. Given that we import gas through a contract which is to expire shortly, the price of gas used at Delimara to generate electricity will probably sky-rocket. Alternatively, we use the interconnector to tap energy generated on the mainland. The use of the interconnector was very recently curtailed due to the substantial increase in the price of the energy available!  A substantial increase would impact government finances negatively and Robert Abela would prefer not to have this fact in the public domain during an electoral campaign.

The third reason would be the impacts of grey-listing which are bound to increase with time. The longer it takes to take action as per the agreed road-map with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) the more the impacts. Labour cannot divorce itself from this. They think that having an election out of the way would at least shield Labour from more electoral impacts of grey-listing.

Having a snap election could potentially shield the Labour Party from these and other impacts which could have a substantial political fallout. The snap election will not address these problems, it will just postpone them into the future.

A fixed-term Parliament would do away with all this. Instead of trying to avoid problems it is better to address them head-on.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 24 October 2021

F’ħoġor Herman van Rompuy

MUSCAT ROMPUY

Wara l-istqarrija tal-Ministru Manwel Mallia fil-Parlament huwa ġustifikat li nistaqsu: issa fejn sejrin?

Il-posizzjonijiet tal-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni jikkuntrastaw mhux daqstant fl-iskop daqskemm fil-metodu.

Ilkoll kemm aħna naqblu li l-piż tal-immigrazzjoni għall-pajjiżna hu kbir. Naqblu lkoll li għandna nipproteġu l-ħajja bla limitu jew kundizzjonijiet iżda li dan l-impenn tagħna m’għandux ikun abbużat.

Ilkoll naqblu li l-għajnuna li tatna s’issa l-Unjoni Ewropeja biex nistgħu naqdu aħjar l-obbligi tagħna li nħarsu l-ħajja ta’ dawk li jeħtieġu din l-għajnuna ma jeżenta lil ħadd mill-obbligi kbar li hemm ta’ kull pajjiż li jifforma parti mill-Unjoni Ewropeja lejn il-pajjiżi fuq il-fruntiera.

Huwa ukoll fatt, li ħadd ma semma il-lejla fil-Parlament li billi l-materja tal-immigrazzjoni mhiex waħda mir-responsabbiltajiet komuni tal-Unjoni azzjoni dwarha teħtieġ l-unanimita’, jiġifieri li jaqblu l-pajjiżi kollha. U jekk din l-unanimita ma tkunx teżisti ftit li xejn jistgħu jittieħdu deċiżjonijiet .

Saru diversi tentattivi tul is-snin biex jintlaħaq xi forma ta’ ftehim. L-uniku pass li kien hemm qbil dwaru kien illi jgħin min irid, fuq bażi volontarja. Fuq it-TVM2 David Casa nhar il-Ħadd qal li kienu 4 biss il-pajjiżi li offrew l-għajnuna, liema għajnuna issarfet filli dawn ħadu madwar 700 immigrant f’pajjiżhom. Numru ferm żgħir li nqabeż anke mill-għajnuna li tatna l-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika.

Huwa f’dan il-kuntest li wieħed irid jiċcara li l-konflitt ta’ Malta mhux mal-Unjoni Ewropeja iżda mal-Kapijiet tal-Gvern li miġbura flimkien fil-Kunsill Ewropew jieħdu id-deċiżjonijiet li l-Kummissjoni tkun teħtieġ li timplimenta.  Għaxra mit-28 Gvern ta’ pajjiżi fil-UE huma immexxija minn Prim Ministri Soċjalisti, 13 minn Prim Ministri ġejjin mill-Partit Popolari. Id-diversita’ ta’ opinjonijiet hi kbira għax ilkoll kemm huma jridu jirrispondu għal opinjoni pubblika kritika f’pajjiżhom.

Kollox ser idur fuq il-kapaċita ta’ Herman van Rompuy President tal-Kunsill li iktar kmieni din is-sena kien hawn Malta u indirizza l-Parlament Malti. Van Rompuy għandu l-fama ta’ consensus builder u l-probabbilta’ li l-problema tispiċċa f’ħoġru.

F’Ġunju li għadda lill-Parlament kien qallu “I am fully aware of Malta’s concerns.”  Jekk minn dan l-għarfien jirnexxilux iwassal għal soluzzjoni iżda għad irridu naraw.

 

AD concern over BP oil drilling near Malta

Alternattiva Demokratika this afternoon expressed concern about drilling in the Gulf of Sirte which is being taken in hand by BP.

Its spokesman on EU and international affairs, Arnold Cassola, said that it should be of extreme concern for Malta that BP, ‘which has a disastrous track record with regards to safety measures in this field,’ as seen from the recent Gulf of Mexico disaster, was about to start drilling an oil well in the Gulf of Sirte in Libyan waters.

“The Libyan government is already giving Malta a really bad name through the way it deals with irregular migrants. We ask the Maltese government, and the likewise subservient PL opposition led by Joseph Muscat, to speak up and show some dignity and self respect and not continue acting as if Malta were a colony of Libya,” he said.

Carmel Cacopardo AD spokesman on sustainable development, observed that approximately 60% of Malta’s drinking water is obtained through reverse osmosis. In the case of a major accident in the new BP oil well 500 kilometres away from Malta, a major source of drinking water may become unusable, he said.

“After the serious accident on the BP platform in the Gulf of Mexico which has been traced to incompetence and decisions doing away with safety procedures, a similar accident in a BP-run oil-rig is not an impossible happening. Such an accident will also have a long term effect on the livelihood of Maltese fishermen as well as on the tourism industry, not to mention the ecological havoc. AD calls upon the Maltese government to insist with the Libyan government as well as with BP that they are to ensure that all safety procedures are in place before drilling starts,” Mr Cacopardo said.

He also called upon the UK government which has defended BP with the US administration, to use its good offices to ensure that the lessons learnt from the Gulf of Mexico are acted upon immediately.