[WATCH] Parliament a farce: Opposition parties decry House suspension during campaign

The government has said that the decision to suspend sittings was taken in light of poor attendance resulting from the fact that many MPs were occupied with campaign events

The government yesterday said it was adjourning parliament till after the upcoming elections
The government yesterday said it was adjourning parliament till after the upcoming elections

A decision by the government to suspend parliament till after the elections scheduled to take place at the end of this month has both opposition parties accusing the government of undermining the country’s democracy.

Yesterday, parliament was adjourned by until after the elections, with the government citing poor attendance for sittings as a result of the fact that many MPs were occupied with campaign events.

Government whip Byron Camilleri told MaltaToday that the poor attendance was making it difficult for parliament to continue to function properly. “So much so, that one could tell that attendance in parliament was poor.”

Camilleri said the Opposition had been informed “during the sitting” and that extra sessions would be scheduled for after the election, to make up for the ones missed.

The decision however was criticised by the Nationalist and Democratic parties.

 “On the eve of a sitting whether the estimates of the Embryo Protection Authority were to be debated and which was agreed to two weeks ago in the House Business Committee, the government decided, out of the blue, to adjourn parliament till after the elections,” the Nationalist Party said in a statement yesterday.

It added that it was clear that the decision had been taken because the government was not comfortable discussing the subject before the election.

The decision was described by Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi as “unprecedented abuse” by the government, which he said was “running roughshod over Parliament”.

Democratic Party leader Godfrey Farrugia similarly said the government’s decision stopped debates necessary for the proper functioning of a representative democracy.

“Parliamentary sittings just resumed after a three week break for Easter and out of the blue, it was adjourned again by the government’s whip, obviously on the instructions of the Office of the Prime Minister,” Farrugia said in a video uploaded to his Facebook page.  

“I was whip and I know how things are done. Nobody adjourns parliament for no reason and it shows how weak our democracy is, where the government can unilaterally decide to adjourn parliament.

He added that poor attendance, especially during an MEP campaign, was nothing new, and that this was mainly due to the fact that the government had “bought” its backbench and was ignoring the Opposition.

“Parliament had become a farce in the hands of the maestro, the Prime Minister,” Farrugia said.

Camilleri did not respond to a question on whether the move could be considered undemocratic.