Nationalist Party candidate and Birkirkara councillor Justin Schembri has called for a change in Malta’s election laws to stop political parties co-opting MPs who wouldn’t have contested the previous general election.
“I feel that the time has come to start discussing changes in Malta’s election laws,” Schembri wrote in a recent opinion piece for In-Nazzjon.
As it stands, the resignation of an elected MP triggers a casual election in that district to determine the second preference of people who had voted for that MP.
If no candidate submits their name for a casual election or if an MP elected through a casual election resigns, the party will be able to co-opt anyone they like into Parliament.
The gaming of this electoral mechanism was recently in full view when Gavin Gulia was elected through a casual election to replace former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, only for him to resign moments after he was sworn in, paving the way for the co-option of Oliver Scicluna.
Schembri is proposing that, in the eventuality of a casually elected MP resigning, the runner-up should automatically get elected. If the runner-up doesn’t contest or resigns, the baton should pass to the candidate who finished third, and so on until the bottom of the list of the candidates who contested that district on behalf of the same political party.
In practice, Gulia’s resignation would therefore have triggered the automatic election of Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.
If the district list expires, the seat should be given to the non-elected candidate from that same party who would have obtained most first preference votes across all districts.
Schembri is also proposing a specific mechanism to allow MPs to vacate their seat for a new leader who wouldn’t have contested the previous general election.
“This would safeguard the democratic choice of party members when electing the leader they think is best suited for the role of Prime Minister or Opposition leader,” he said.
Therefore, Opposition leader Bernard Grech and his predecessor Adrian Delia would still have been allowed to make it into the House.
What do you make of this proposal?