Two seats for 50 votes, 5,500 votes for the Greens equals what?

The Constitution as it stands today guarantees the best interests of a two-party democracy

The Creens have been denied a seat for 27 years, by the same Nationalist and Labour politicians who believe that the system should serve them and not voters or democracy
The Creens have been denied a seat for 27 years, by the same Nationalist and Labour politicians who believe that the system should serve them and not voters or democracy

I am no judge, nor a magistrate, neither do I claim to have the wisdom of Ms Justice Schembri Orland.

I am of course referring to her decision to award two extra seats to the Nationalist party because of 50 votes which were misplaced after being tallied for first count purposes.

Just before anyone gets flustered, let me be clear: Glenn Bedingfield has every right to say what he likes but if he wants to blog about the judiciary and counter the bile blogger he has to step down from his post at Castille and find an alternative revenue stream. What he is doing is simply not on. And prime minister Joseph Muscat should apply the same ruthless approach he applied with Anglu Farrugia when the former deputy leader screwed up big time by entertaining a comment regarding a member of the judiciary, just three months before the 2013 general election.

Justice Schembri Orland must have a skewed idea of what proportionality and democracy are all about. She has concluded through some great mental gymnastics that votes which were definitely counted as first count votes but then were somehow misplaced and not used to work out the final choice of candidate, is a good enough reason for her decision.

The answer to that is, of course not.

If the Nationalist party had won by just under 36,000 votes and if the number of first count votes was that, no amount of cross party voting (which is close to irrelevant) would ever change the final result of seats allotted. The Constitution as it stands today guarantees the best interests of a two-party democracy.

But of course some legal interpretation has led Justice Schembri Orland to see things in quite a different light.

Apart from the fact that these legal considerations are being questioned for their soundness, the big question is about the competence of the courts. And secondly because the court has taken into consideration an international clause in a protocol on elections which applies in the case of rogue and banana states.

Now Simon Busuttil told a press conference and I quote: “The government’s decision to appeal the judgment is an insult to democracy, an insult to the people, and an insult to the voters of the eighth and the 13th districts. Rather than appealing the court’s judgment, the government should be setting the example by accepting the court sentence. 

“The government dragged its feet during the court case to deny the PN its two seats, and now, through the appeal, it wants the case to continue to drag on.”

Well I am not quite sure I agree, but if the PN is awarded another two seats, and we were to apply the principle of proportionality, then Labour should be awarded at least another two seats. Because no matter how we juggle figures around, the quota of seats versus seats is what it is.

PN leader Simon Busuttil knows in his heart of hearts that proportionality and parliamentary representation are not determined by the courts or by journalists but by a simple understanding of what democracy is all about. Eddie Fenech Adami saw Malta through five years of hell because in 1981 he got a majority of votes but not of seats: that is a clear cut proportionality issue.

Three years down the line and with just two years to go to another election, Simon Busuttil is still fighting for two seats on grounds which are not at all legally clear. No one has said the 2013 election result is “perverse”. The PN lost badly and is a sore loser.

Regarding the accusation that Schembri Orland or that the majority of the judiciary are Nationalists or have had contacts with the PN as election candidates, or have been activists of the Nationalist party, that is really beside the point.

I could have said the same, as in fact I did say, when years back I had to face Philip Sciberras, then a judge (and a former PL parliamentarian) in a defamation case by the late Dom Mintoff.

The truth is that on this one, the decision to award two extra seats is not only an aberration on the part of the justice system but simply one that serves a marketing exercise which should be taken for what it is.

If there was a good comment as reported today in MaltaToday it is the one by Ralph Cassar on behalf of the Maltese Greens.  

Cassar pointed out that electoral law already provides for a contestation of election results.

He explained that, first of all, there is the possibility of asking for a recount at each of the counting stages of the process – something which the armies of PN (and PL) officials who closely monitor the Electoral Commission’s counting staff, could have easily done.

And he rightly points out: “Secondly the law allows a possibility of an appeal in court of the election results within three days of their official publication – something which the PN actually did, and lost. 

“It doesn’t make sense to prolong the contestation of election results and the three-day timeframe is more than enough.”

Cassar explained that some PN candidates were bandying figures about to convince us that the PN deserves more seats – when in fact the correction factor which is used to ‘correct’ the result and bring up the number of seats in Parliament to 69 instead of 65, would have been completely different. 

“In fact the Nationalists had already been given these extra seats. The irony of this is that all this hullabaloo is being raised because of a mistake in the counting of 50 votes. They want two extra seats for 50 votes and speak about proportionality and democracy. At the same time they obviously ignore the 5,500 AD votes in the 2013 general election.”

Wonderfully put.


Cabinet Minister Evarist Bartolo has once again called on MFSA chief Joe Bannister to leave. But he knows that he is doing this against the will of the Prime Minister. Muscat is saying nothing to Bartolo but it is common knowledge that on this one, Muscat is in tandem with Simon Busuttil, that is, Bannister should stay.

No sooner had Bartolo repeated his view on the matter, than Bartolo’s suggestion was taken up by Marlene Farrugia, who has now taken on the role her former husband Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando had before 2013.

What JPO did to Richard Cachia Caruana, Farrugia wants to do to Keith Schembri and Mizzi. And what JPO did to Gonzi, Farrugia may want to do to the PL.

The scenario is rather different, however. JPO was the PN government’s majority of one. He had huge, huge power. Marlene Farrugia has only a voice. She was one of a PL majority of nine.

She has also completely nullified the chances of her partner, PL party whip Godfrey Farrugia, returning to politics. No matter how hard he tries, the chance of standing and getting elected by a Labour constituency are slim.

The Evarist Bartolo and Marlene Farrugia scene could be one of a Netflix series of the House of Cards.  

Whereas I can understand Bartolo, I ask myself what is he playing at? Because it is clear to me that he is diminishing his prime minister, not contributing to his stature.  The least ethereal link with Marlene Farrugia will make it worse.

Farrugia on her part will be pleased to see, according to a MT survey, that 1.5% would vote for her party. But there is a little catch here, with 1.5% or even 10% of the votes, she would not make it. Worse still, most of her voters are Nationalist and once the PN chews this, and she decides to make public her decision to stand, the Nationalist media will dump her, and no regrets.

That is how it works, which I guess is the story the Greens will gladly recount to Marlene Farrugia. Because every time they got close to making a breakthrough they faced the wrath of the Nationalist Party – because history shows that the Greens get most of their votes from Nationalist supporters.

Which means that Marlene and the Greens stand little chance of making any advance in the next election. You see, the electoral system sucks.

And if there is one thing that Muscat and Busuttil cannot but agree on, it is the electoral system. A system that in their eyes should be tailor made to suit their needs and leave any new political formation out of the equation.


We comment in the newsroom on what would the late Julian Manduca say if he were still around. This month marks the 11th anniversary of his untimely death in May 2005.  His journalism was full of vitality, idealism and spirit. Not much has changed since he passed away. But at least we can still remember his wit and his laugh. And love for life. We miss him.

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