Repubblika wants a president elected by the people with wider powers

Civil society NGO Repubblika presents Speaker with constitutional reform document that proposes a president elected by the people, full-time MPs and ministers who are not MPs but answerable to parliament

Repubblika have presented several proposals for constitutional change to mark 100 years since the birth of the Maltese parliament
Repubblika have presented several proposals for constitutional change to mark 100 years since the birth of the Maltese parliament

A president elected by popular vote, ministers who are not MPs and State-funded political parties are reform proposals put forward by Repubblika to mark parliament’s centenary.

The civil society NGO said the president should be able to appoint as prime minister the person they believe is best suited to form a government.

In an extensive document to mark 100 years since Malta’s first parliament, Repubblika said the proposals for constitutional change aim to strengthen parliament’s function. The document was presented to Speaker Anġlu Farrugia.

The recommendations propose a support structure for the president that would be under their control and accountable directly to them rather than to the executive or parliament.

Repubblika believes that the president should be empowered to refer legislation to the constitutional court, while having the right to push back laws approved by parliament. 

It also suggested the president is elected by the electorate for terms that do not coincide with parliamentary ones.

“This proposal is not without risks. Candidates to the presidency will, in most cases, be nominated by political parties and campaigning will quite possibly make it harder for an elected president to eventually enjoy cross-party respect and become a symbol of national unity,” it said.

The possibility of an early election should only come if the president is satisfied that the prime minister does not enjoy parliament’s confidence. 

In its suggestions on separation of powers, the NGO suggested parliamentary majorities could be able to suggest the appointment of an individual from outside parliament to the position of prime minister.

While required to attend to debates, the prime minister and ministers will not be entitled to a parliamentary vote.

Repubblika believes that MPs should receive a full-time salary and at the end of their term-of-office, MPs should be entitled to a transitional allowance, equivalent to their salary, for one month per year they were in office.

The maximum duration of this allowance should be two years.

MPs, the NGO suggested, should be given an allowance to hire two parliamentary assistants for research and advice. The appointment of relatives or unqualified staff would not be allowed.

Political parties should also be funded by the state, with donations from individuals restricted to the equivalent of four months’ minimum wage.

The NGO also said that the donations from individuals should not exceed 40% of what is provided by the state.

Electoral reform

Seats in the house should be allocated according to the percentage of first preference votes obtained by the political parties.

Any political party that acquires nationwide votes equivalent to a minimum of 5% of the national vote will be guaranteed a number of parliamentary seats that is proportional to their national vote share.

This means that even if no candidate for a small party secures on their own enough votes to be elected from a single constituency, if all the votes secured by candidates of his party nationwide put together amount to a number sufficient to elect an MP, the system will ensure that a candidate is elected.

On the recent debate on whether political parties should own television stations, the NGO said that it could be argued that they shouldn’t.

“Political parties should renounce ownership of TV stations and other media, perhaps in exchange for regulated airtime on public broadcasting services. Any such reform must be accompanied by a thorough reform of the regulations governing public broadcasting,” it said.

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