Greens may challenge party financing regulator before European courts

Alternattiva Demokratika may institute legal action before Maltese and European courts over government’s decision to appoint the Electoral Commission as the watchdog over political parties’ financing

Alternattiva Demokratika (from left): Ralph Cassar, Arnold Cassola and Carmel Cacopardo (Photo: Virginia Monteforte)
Alternattiva Demokratika (from left): Ralph Cassar, Arnold Cassola and Carmel Cacopardo (Photo: Virginia Monteforte)

Alternattiva Demokratika may seek redress from European and Maltese courts over the decision to appoint the Electoral Commission as the regulatory body that will oversee the financing of political parties.

Echoing the criticism voiced by the Opposition and its leader Simon Busuttil, the Green Party denounced the decision to have the Electoral Commission act as the watchdog, arguing that if approved, there could “never be an impartial regulator.”

“AD cannot agree with the Electoral Commission being the regulator in the implementation of such law. The Electoral Commission is made up of representatives of the two parties in parliament, and therefore can never be an impartial regulator,” AD secretary general Ralph Cassar said.

At present, each party in parliament has four members on the board of the Electoral Commission. The Chairman of the commission is then appointed by the President on the advice of the prime minister, effectively meaning that the parties would be in charge of scrutinising their own financing.

While welcoming AD's participation in the party financing debate, Cassar, however, took umbrage at the fact that the basic point of its submissions, mainly that of having an impartial regulator clear of any political prejudice or influence, were rejected by the government. This criticism was also voiced by the Nationalist Party, with its MP Chris Said, declaring that the party may institute legal action to challenge the appointment of the Electoral Commission as the regulatory body. 

Notwithstanding the PN's criticism, the Green Party - which has been pushing for the party financing law since its inception in 1989 - has however, declared that it could up the ante and challenge the law on a European level. 

“Alternattiva Demokratika believes that the choice of a politically appointed person as a regulator weakens the law and its eventual correct and fair application. AD will therefore examine the law closely when approved, and after having taken legal advice, will decide whether to proceed in the Maltese and European Courts on the matter concerning the regulator,” it held.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat defended the decision, arguing that the electoral commission’s transparency has never been doubted as it has always acted correctly during all elections. However, Cassar has argued that the government is not painting the full picture.

“Whenever the Electoral Commission did use its discretion in the past it always did so according to the political majority in its composition, and it thus reflected the position of the government of the day. This does not augur well for the good functioning of the law on party financing since it does not make any sense that the party in government or in opposition appoints eight out of nine members, and that the party in Government appoints the Chairman,” he said.

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