Constitutional Court finds for Cassola, orders gender quota case to continue

The Constitutional Court has upheld an appeal filed by independent candidate Arnold Cassola and ordered the continuation of a case in which he is challenging the introduction of gender quotas for parliament • No impact on current law

The Constitutional Court has upheld an appeal filed by independent candidate Arnold Cassola and ordered the continuation of a case in which he is challenging the gender quota law for parliament.

Cassola is challenging the constitutional amendments passed last year through which additional parliamentary seats are awarded after an election if the underrepresented gender comprises less than 40% of elected MPs.

Cassola described the mechanism as an “insult”, saying it discriminated in favour of women with ties to the major political parties and against all other women who are not affiliated to them.

The independent candidate had filed the case after the mechanism was appoved in parliament, with 63 MPs voting in favour and two against.

The mechanism will kick in only if two political parties are represented in parliament and up to a maximum of 12 additional seats could be added.

Cassola said Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech created a discriminatory system in order to be able to add to their own parliamentarians.

Last January, the First Hall of the Civil Court had dismissed Cassola’s case with costs, ruling that he lacked the juridical interest required to file the action.

Cassola had subsequently filed an appeal against that decision.

In a judgement handed down on Monday morning, the Constitutional Court in its superior jurisdiction, presided by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti, and judges Giannino Caruana Demajo and Anthony Ellul, ruled that Cassola did indeed possess the required juridical interest in the case. It noted that he had expressed a desire to vote for candidates who were neither PN nor PL affiliated.

“In the opinion of the court this means that the applicant is part of a class of persons affected by Article 52A of the Constitution, as this article makes it clear that for the purposes of the mechanism it contemplates, the applicant’s vote for candidates which are not members of the Labour Party or the Nationalist Party does not count and will be disregarded.”

The court stated that it was not necessary to await the outcome of the election to determine whether the applicant would be affected by the application of this law. “It is clear that any candidate who is not a member of the two parties mentioned would not benefit from this mechanism, no matter how many votes he gets.” Therefore, as a registered voter, the applicant did indeed have the necessary juridical interest in the case.

For this reason, the court upheld the appeal and sent the acts of the case back to the First Hall of the Civil Court to continue to be heard.

The judgment has no impact on the current law and will not effect the outcome of the general election since the merits of the case still have to be dealt with.