PL asks for inclusion of Partit Demokratiku in Constitutional case over PN seats

PN lawyers object to Labour's request for the inclusion of the PD in the lawsuit, arguing that the PD would not be affected by the outcome

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
13 June 2017, 5:32pm
The Constitutional Court has ordered that the Nationalist Party (PN) be made a party to a lawsuit filed by the Labour Party (PL) against the Electoral Commission, in objection to the triggering of a Constitutional mechanism that allocated extra seats to the PN in last week's general election.

The PL had filed the Constitutional case last week in the wake of the Electoral Commission's decision to allocate two extra seats to the Nationalist Party.

The PL had formally protested to the Commission, arguing that the Constitutional clause under which the allocation had been made did not apply, as there was now a third political party enjoying representation in Parliament.

The PN however promised to “defend the will” of the Maltese electorate, as well as the Constitution.

Since the PL filed its case against the Electoral Commission, lawyer Paul Borg Olivier said the PN was asking to be admitted into the suit because the court's decision would have a direct effect on the PN and the two MPs elected under the mechanism.

But no sooner had the court upheld this request, did the PN object to a request by the PL's lawyer Pawlu Lia that the Partit Demokratitku (PD) also be included in the suit, with Borg Olivier making submissions which appeared to play down the PD's distinction from the Nationalist Party.

“It is only fitting that the PD is also included in these proceedings,” Lia had argued. The absence of the PD in these proceedings, once the PN had been admitted to the suit, would effectively prejudice the entire case, he argued. 

Borg Olivier and lawyer Karol Aquilina objected to the PL's request for the inclusion of the PD, arguing that the PD would not be affected by the outcome.

“At no point will there be an impact on the PD... whether the court accepts or denies the plaintiff's requests,” Borg Olivier said, but if the court upheld the request, it would only result in a negative effect solely on the PN.

Not even in the pre-election Broadcasting Authority debates was the PD allowed airtime, they argued.

The PD had contested under the PN banner, Borg Olivier said: “There is no impact because the PD did not participate at any point in these electoral process. It made political statements, as had Alternattiva Demokratika and other NGOs, as had persons who did not contest the elections.”

A distinction needed to be drawn between what is said in public and participation in elections, he argued.

Borg Olivier submitted that part of the definition of a political party under the General Elections Act was that it “shall be any person or group contesting the election bearing the same name.”

“On no district did the PD contest the election [under a separate banner],” he said.

On his part, Lia insisted that “[PD leader] Marlene Farrugia joined another party because it was expedient to her, whilst maintaining a distinction between her party and the PN.”

“In view of the fact that the PN's written submissions had distinguished between the PN and the PD and the campaign had done the same... it is clear that the PD remained distinct to allow it to field candidates under its own banner,” he said.

The PN had publicly made its position clear, in the electoral campaign in the electoral process and now that the process had finished that the “Orange Party” would be taking its place in parliament as PD, Lia said.

“It was already known, also to the Electoral Commission, that the MPs would be taking their place in parliament separately from the PN...they are two distinct parties.”

Prof. Ian Refalo, on behalf of the Electoral Commission, submitted that the request for the inclusion of the PD was premature, as it dealt with the merits of the case. He insisted that juridical interest had to be proven before everything else.

The question of the PD involvement is, to an extent, part of the central argument of the PL's case, he said. “This juridical interest must emerge from evidence.”  

The court said that at this stage, in view of the urgency cited by both sides, as well as the national interest, it had to first decide on the addition of the PD to the suit, after which it would hear the evidence.

 

The court scheduled the next sitting for Thursday 15th June at 3pm.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...