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Politics of Malta

Under its 1964 constitution, Malta became a parliamentary democracy[?] within the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom was sovereign of Malta, and a governor general exercised executive authority on her behalf, while the actual direction and control of the government and the nation's affairs were in the hands of the cabinet under the leadership of a Maltese prime minister.

On December 13, 1974, the constitution was revised, and Malta became a republic within the Commonwealth, with executive authority vested in a Maltese president. The president appoints as Prime Minister the leader of the party with a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. The president also nominally appoints, upon recommendation of the prime minister, the individual ministers to head each of the government departments. The cabinet is selected from among the members of the unicameral House of Representatives. This body consists of between 65 and 69 members elected on the basis of proportional representation. Elections must be held at least every 5 years. Candidates for any vacancies are determined by the majority of votes obtained by a candidate during the previous elections.

Malta's judiciary is independent. The president on the advice of the prime minister appoints the chief justice and 16 judges. Their mandatory retirement age is 65. There is a civil court, a commercial court, and a criminal court. In the latter, the presiding judge sits with a jury of nine. The court of appeal hears appeals from decisions of the civil court and of the commercial court. The court of criminal appeal hears appeals from judgments of conviction by the criminal court. The highest court, the Constitutional Court, hears appeals in cases involving violations of human rights, interpretation of the constitution, and invalidity of laws. It also has jurisdiction in cases concerning disputed parliamentary elections and electoral corrupt practices. There also are inferior courts presided over by a magistrate.

The Local Councils Act, 1993[?] (Act XV of 1993) was published on June 30, 1993, subdividing Malta into 54 local councils in Malta and 14 in Gozo. The inhabitants who are registered elect the Council every 3 years, as voters in the Local Councils' Electoral Register[?]. Elections are held by means of the system of proportional representation using the single transferable vote. The mayor is the head of the Local Council and the representative of the Council for all effects under the Act. The Executive Secretary, who is appointed by the Council, is the executive, administrative, and financial head of the Council. All decisions are taken collectively with the other members of the Council. Local councils are responsible for the general upkeep and embellishment of the locality, local wardens, and refuse collection, and carry out general administrative duties for the central government such as collection of government rents and funds, and answering government-related public inquiries.

Two parties dominate Malta's polarized and evenly divided politics--the Nationalist Party, led by Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami[?], and the Malta Labor Party[?], led by Alfred Sant[?]. Elections invariably generate a widespread voter turnout exceeding 96%. The margin between the two parties is so narrow that a 52% share of the votes can still be considered a "landslide" for the winning party. Prior to the May 1987 election, the Maltese constitution was amended to ensure that the party that obtained more than 50% of the popular vote would have a majority of seats in parliament and would thereby form the government. The then-Labor Party government proposed this constitutional amendment in exchange for Nationalist Party (in opposition at the time) agreement to two other amendments to the constitution: The first stipulates Malta's neutrality status and policy of nonalignment, and the second prohibits foreign interference in Malta's elections.

The 1996 elections resulted in the election of the Labour Party by 8,000 votes to replace the Nationalists who had won in 1987 and 1992. Voter turnout was characteristically high at 96% with the Labour Party receiving 50.72%, the Nationalist part 47.8%, the Alternativa Demokratika (associated with the Greens) 1.46% and independent parties .02%. In 1998 the Labour Party lost a parliamentary vote, leading the Prime Minister to call early elections. The Nationalist Party was returned to office in September 1998 by a majority of 13,000 votes and holds a five-seat majority in Parliament. Voter turnout was 95%. The Nationalist Party won 51.81%, the Labour Party won 46.97%, Alternativa Demokratika 1.21% and independent parties .01%. The next general elections must be held before January 2004.


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Malta
conventional short form: Malta
local long form: Repubblika ta' Malta
local short form: Malta

Data code: MT

Government type: parliamentary democracy[?]

Capital: Valletta

Administrative divisions: Malta is divided into 68 elected local councils[?], with each council responsible for the administration of cities or regions of varying sizes. Administrative responsibility is distributed between the local councils and the central government in Valletta.

Independence: 21 September 1964 (from UK)

National holidays: Independence Day, 21 September (1964)

Constitution: 1964 constitution substantially amended on 13 December 1974

Legal system: laws of Malta based on English common law and Roman civil law; has accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Guido DE MARCO[?] (since 4 April 1999)
head of government: Prime Minister Eddie FENECH ADAMI[?] (since 6 September 1998); Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence GONZI (since 4 May 1999)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister
elections: president elected by the House of Representatives for a five-year term; election last held NA April 1999 (next to be held by NA April 2004); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the president for a five-year term; the deputy prime minister is appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister
election results: Guido DE MARCO elected president; percent of House of Representatives vote - NA

Legislative branch: unicameral House of Representatives (usually 65 seats; note - additional seats are given to the party with the largest popular vote to ensure a legislative majority; current total: 65 seats; members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 5 September 1998 (next to be held by September 2003)
election results: percent of vote by party - PN 51.8%, MLP 46.9%, AD 1.2%; seats by party - PN 35, MLP 30

Judicial branch: Constitutional Court, judges are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister; Court of Appeal, judges are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister

Political parties and leaders: Harry VASSALLO[?]; Malta Labor Party[?] or MLP Alfred SANT[?]; Nationalist Party[?] or PN Edward FENECH ADAMI

International organization participation: C, CCC, CE, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Flag description: two equal vertical bands of white (hoist side) and red; in the upper hoist-side corner is a representation of the George Cross, edged in red

External links

See also : Malta

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