‘To safeguard democracy, other political parties must be helped’ – De Marco

PN deputy leader questions whether proposed party financing law only serves to sustain ‘status quo’ enjoyed by the two major political parties

PN deputy leader for parliamentary affairs Mario de Marco
PN deputy leader for parliamentary affairs Mario de Marco

In stark contrast to other speeches delivered in the House by MPs from both sides of the House, PN deputy leader Mario de Marco delivered a challenging speech questioning whether the proposed legislation to regulate party financing “only serves to sustain the status quo” of both Labour and PN.

The House is currently debating the proposed party financing law tabled by the government. So far, speeches have focused on the property owned by the Labour Party and the financial situation of the Nationalist Party.

But de Marco this evening went a step further in actually featuring in other political parties, mainly Alternattiva Demokratika, who despite never making it to parliament they still had an important role to play in a democratic society.

“We all know that it is expensive for a political party to operate, irrespective of its size. We all agree that it is expensive to run an electoral campaign, to advertise and to hold conventions. If we really have to help in the formation and operation of the political parties, we must not only regulate income, but also expenditure.

“If we really believe in political and democratic development, we should also help those political parties which are not necessarily in a position to obtain these funds.”

He explained that most of the income of political parties was derived from – among others – membership fees, funding by organisations, donations and commercial activities.

“The question that legitimately follows is why do business people finance a political party and this draft legislation attempts to answer this question, but not necessarily in convincible way.

“It is unfortunate that the question of public funding was tackled from a partisan point of view without even discussing that public funding had nothing to do with accusing one party of being bankrupt or about how it operated.”

De Marco said that to help the formation of new political parties, public funding had to be discussed: “Yet we only spoke as if the PN or Labour’s status quo is ad aeternum. It is unfortunate that the debate in this Chamber limited itself to the two parties.”

De Marco questioned whether the status quo was contributing to the “stagnation” in Malta’s political system.

“I fear that the debate has been widely tackled as if only Labour and PN existed in Malta and as if the political landscape could never change… or that a change would not necessarily be good.”

De Marco said that even though Alternattiva Demokratika had failed to elect an MP ever since it was conceived, yet it still served important functions especially in its calls for transparency, accountability and its advocacy of environment protection.

“Although a political party’s goal is to lead a country, a political party which is not in government still carries out important functions. Once we agree that every political party has an important role to play, we have to see how to protect their contribution, irrespective of which party it is.”

De Marco said that while a two-party system had its advantages as it gave a sense of political stability and consistency, yet it had its shortcomings. He argued that more political parties meant a stronger democracy.

The deputy leader for parliamentary affairs confirmed that his party will be voting in favour of the law. He however urged government “to do more” to actually show that the legislation was not just about text.

“The government has to accept that a Labour government in the past failed to distinguish between a government and the party and between the government and the state. There was blatant abuse of the requisition order and the present Labour administration must acknowledge this. If we are to have a level playing field, the Labour Party must return its 28 properties to the rightful owners.”

Nationalist MP Kristy Debono, in an earlier speech, reiterated the PN’s call that the Labour government must return these 28 properties, “22 of which should be returned to the public and six to the private owners”.

“The government should admit the mistakes of the past, return those properties, compensate the rightful owners and start a fresh page. Only then can we have an equal debate. But if it does not do so, it would only be agreeing with the injustices carried out in the past,” Debono said.

Other speeches were delivered by PN MPs Toni Bezzina and Clyde Puli and parliamentary secretary Ian Borg.