Repubblika President Robert Aquilina today delivered to Parliament’s Speaker a copy of a document proposing Parliamentary reform.
Speaking to the press, Robert Aquilina recalled that this year will be the 100th anniversary of Malta’s Parliament. Though Parliament operates from a new building it is burdened by old-fashioned practices that are out of sync with today’s democracy.
The government exploits weaknesses in the design of Parliament to prevent it from overseeing and balancing its power. Parliament has been captured to the extent that government employs more than half its members.
Repubblika said today it feels that reforms to Parliament should be a priority of Constitutional reform.
The document includes a detailed analysis of the challenges that need addressing.
Repubblika said it was acutely aware that corruption, impunity and the outrage on democracy perpetrated by the killers of Daphne Caruana Galizia, were less a result of weaknesses in institutional design and more the product of the willingness of people in power to commit acts of corruption and crime and the fear and inaction of the people Constitutionally empowered to stop them.
Just this week Speaker Anġlu Farrugia clipped Parliament’s wings when he renounced Parliament’s power to censor its corrupt members. The Speaker chose to please Joseph Muscat instead of doing his job.
Repubblika also acknowledged that there is no single Constitutional model that is perfect and infallible. The events in Washington a few days ago show that even the most sophisticated Constitutions can be crushed under violence and intimidation.
Repubblika said it is humbly putting forward proposals without thinking that no better ideas can emerge from the discussion. But Repubblika insisted the present reality does not live up to the needs of our democracy and a serious debate is needed to bring about change.
Repubblika’s proposals are aimed to equip Parliament with what it needs to be the place where our laws are written and an institution that participates properly in the writing of European laws. Repubblika wants Parliament to represent Maltese and Gozitan constituencies in a truly proportionate manner. And that the institution no longer remains a rug at government’s feet but rather the guardian that oversees it.
Repubblika is proposing an institutional separation between the President and Parliament and giving the President the power to push back to Parliament laws they do not agree with or to refer to the Constitutional Court laws they deem unconstitutional. But these powers must be adopted in a democratic context which is why Repubblika is suggesting direct Presidential elections as happens in most European Parliamentary democracies.
Repubblika proposed a separation between the roles of MP and government Minister. Ministers should attend Parliament to answer to its scrutiny not to decide its agenda and lord over it.
Repubblika said that Malta’s democracy is sufficiently complex to justify that its Ministers and Judges work on a full-time basis, exclusively dedicated to their public service. The same should apply to MPs that, Repubblika said, should be paid decently to justify their exclusive commitment to the job.
Another proposal is to relieve the prime minister from the discretionary power of setting the date for a general election. And to establish a national quota for political parties to enter Parliament. Once a party exceeds that quota on a national basis it would be guaranteed Parliamentary seats.
These and several other proposals are being put forward for a serious, but urgent, national debate. Repubblika said we should not wait another century to renew our democracy to reflect today’s needs with institutions that balance against the power of the executive and restrain the risk of autocracy.
The document can be downloaded here. repubblika-parliament-EN-2 (2)