Malta Tourism Authority Chairman Gavin Gulia’s resignation within hours of his short-lived appointment as member of parliament has been noted by civil society group Repubblika as another argument in favour of the need for parliamentary reform.
Parliament is currently functioning as a “carpet under the feet of the government” rather than a “watchman”, the NGO said.
Gulia’s resignation on Wednesday came merely days after the group published its proposals to strengthen parliament’s function, where it observed that over the years, and due to numerous factors, “the function of political oversight over the administration by elected representatives of the people has been suppressed almost entirely”.
In a statement on Thursday, the group noted that within one year of his tenure Prime Minister Robert Abela has managed to bring in three people of his choice in parliament who had not obtained a “single vote” in the last general election.
“Worse, it seemed that Abela did all this to win out the person who would be democratically elected,” it said, condemning the “arrogant and cynical manoeuvre” by Abela “to bring his people into parliament”.
Last week, The Shift had reported that among Gulia and former PN MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, former Labour Mayor Charles Azzopardi was the frontrunner to fill in the vacancy created by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna. Azzopardi is now a registered PN life member, therefore, if he had won the casual election, in line with predictions, he could have chosen not to join Labour’s backbench.
The Shift reported that Azzopardi, disowned by Labour over allegations against him prior to the 2019 local council elections, was under intense pressure from PL quarters to forgo his right to contest the casual election following the resignation of former Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.
On Wednesday, Azzopardi said the move by Gulia was”death to country’s democracy”. Similarly, Repubblika said, “Dr Abela should stop playing with democracy and remember that parliament and democracy are not his private property but a treasure of us all”.
This year marks the first 100 years of Malta’s parliament, a milestone which the group believes is an opportunity to “look at parliament critically and renew its effectiveness to serve the democracy of our times”.
The proposals cover numerous factors, including the President, separation of powers, adequate resourcing, and term of office.
In line with recommendations by the Venice Commission in 2018, which the group said “have so far been ignored,” the proposal includes numerous recommendations, including that the President is elected by the people, that political parties are state-funded, and that the role as a member of parliament is a full-time role and compensated at a salary-scale.
The proposals also suggest that MPs relinquish any private work in employment, consultancy, directorship or other during their term in office. According to the group, donations to political parties from individuals should be restricted to the equivalent of four months’ minimum wage, and that donations from entities should not exceed 40% of what is provided by the State.
Another proposal by the group states that political parties should renounce media ownership in exchange for regulated airtime on public broadcasting services. Any such reform must be accompanied by a thorough reform of the regulation of public broadcasting, it added.
The proposals were presented to the Speaker of the House on Wednesday.
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