Right for Maltese abroad to vote in embassies to be decided in constitutional convention

Maltese prime minister says electoral reform in forthcoming constitutional convention will propose enfranchisement of voters abroad

Muscat told Australian public radio service SBS Maltese that he was confident that agreement could be reached between all parties on giving voters abroad the facility to vote in embassies
Muscat told Australian public radio service SBS Maltese that he was confident that agreement could be reached between all parties on giving voters abroad the facility to vote in embassies

LISTEN HERE [Source: SBS Maltese] at 12 mins 58 sec'

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said a proposal for Maltese migrants abroad to vote in general elections in their respective embassies, will be discussed in a a forthcoming constitutional convention.

Muscat told Australian public radio service SBS Maltese that he was confident that agreement could be reached between all parties.

“The suggestions from the Council for Maltese Living Abroad are not gathering dust on a shelf, and in the constitutional reforms that will also discuss electoral laws, we will consider allowing Maltese who qualify for the vote to cast their ballot in their embassies without the need to come to Malta to vote,” Muscat said.

READ MORE Muscat moots referendum for ‘completely new’ Maltese Constitution and changes on religion and neutrality

Malta’s electoral law disqualifies citizens from voting in general elections if they have not resided in Malta for at least six months in the 18 months immediately preceding national elections.

In the past political parties actively petitioned the courts to strike off expatriate voters, but proving a Maltese citizen has not spent six months on the island has become much more difficult since Malta joined the EU and passport control has been lifted.

Labour had pledged in its 2013 manifesto that it would allow expats to vote in their countries of residence without having to fly down to Malta. The PN and Alternattiva Demokratika had come up with similar promises.

But the electoral laws have not yet been changed, with a snap election held in June 2017 that raised concerns about the ability to fly Maltese expats to the island to vote.

In 2015, the government spent €1.1 million flying 1,346 citizens to the island to cast their vote in the 2015 spring hunting referendum, on top of the €70 paid by each voter for the flights.

In 2014, the European Commission identified Malta as one of five member states applying laws that “lead to the loss of voting rights” for its citizens simply because they are exercising their right to free movement in the EU.

The Commission said it was not fair that these citizens should lose their right to participate in the democratic process of their own country simply because they are living in another EU member state.

It invited Malta to enable nationals abroad to retain their right to vote if they demonstrate a continuing interest in the political life of their country, including by applying to remain on the electoral register. Voting could be done electronically.

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