President should have power to send laws back to parliament, AD says

Alternattiva Demokratika presents 30 proposals for constitutional reform, saying President should have the authority to send bills back to Parliament for reconsideration

AD suggested that an electoral college be set up to elect the president so that he could be freed from his political dependence on parliament
AD suggested that an electoral college be set up to elect the president so that he could be freed from his political dependence on parliament

The President of the Republic should have the authority to send bills back to Parliament for reconsideration, Alternattiva Demokratika has proposed.

The Green Party said that the President should not be limited to a figurehead role but should have the ability to apply the brakes in the case of a stubborn executive for the protection of the Constitution.

AD met with President George Vella at San Anton Palace on Tuesday as they presented him with a document containing over 30 proposals for constitutional reform.

“The President should have enough resources and legal advice to fall back on to protect the constitution in an effective manner,” AD said. It added that since disagreements are likely to create intense political controversy, the President’s power to send bills back to parliament should be limited to that approved legislation in contention with the constitution.

“This is without a doubt a very strong political message. Such a change to the President’s role would create another layer to protect the constitutional values of the country.”

Amidst the 30 proposals, AD suggested that an electoral college be set up to elect the President so that he could be freed from his political dependence on parliament. In the same way, the President should not be removed by parliament but by the same college that elected him.

AD said that the Prime Minister’s powers were too vast and that his role had ostensibly replaced the role of governor, a representative of Great Britain when Malta was still a British colony.

“The constitutional bodies are today appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister, which advice comes after consultation with the Opposition Leader. This applies to the Electoral Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Employment Commission, and the Broadcasting Authority.

“These powers should be in the hands of parliament. Parliament, the highest institution of the country, should shoulder the responsibility for safeguarding the constitution,” AD said.

Likewise, the posts of Attorney General, Commissioner of Police and all Permanent Secretaries of all Ministries should be approved by Parliament, and that a decision should be taken after public scrutiny of all nominees.

AD also called for the abolition of all political party media and for a full-time parliament.

“There are many reasons why parliamentarians should be full-timers: firstly, there’s a lot of work to be done and more importantly, parliamentary work should be the only commitment of an MP. This would be a strong bastion against a possible conflict of interest.

“It’s not acceptable that an MP—in the morning and behind closed doors—is assisting business clients with departments, authorities, and ministries regarding contracts, permits and agreements involving millions of euro and then in the evening, the same MP speaks about accountability and scrutiny of governmental work,” AD said.

AD also criticised the appointment of people in positions of trust, which, it said, is prohibited by the constitution.

“Governments have repeatedly ignored the constitution in this particular case due to their political loyalties. The Venice Commission has recently said that in a democracy subject to the rule of law, the public service is the backbone. If appointments on the basis of merits are sidelined, this backbone is weakened.”

There are currently around 700 individuals in a position of trust, which AD said was an unacceptable figure.

“In this case, the constitution already prohibits such behaviour so there is no need for amendments here. What is needed is for the rule of law to truly reign and for the constitution to be respected first and foremost. The Public Service Commission should do its job of surveilling better and should take measures against these blatant abuses,” AD said.

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