It is beyond doubt that Malta has flourished under the current government, profiling as a strong financial hub and implementing progressive social measures. Under the Labour party majority elected in 2012, the Maltese government even managed to achieve fiscal surplus, which the country had not seen in 35 years.
However, the Panama Papers’ release in April 2016 put a sudden brake on the government’s high spirits and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s certainty of being re-elected. With him and his family being investigated for improper business dealings and bribing, Muscat bowed to his opposition’s requests that he step down and call snap elections. As such, Maltese citizens will be called on 3 June to elect the members of the House of Representatives, the unilateral parliamentary organ of the member State.
Cycle: every 5 years, unless the President dissolves Parliament earlier.
Voting system: proportional representation, with 5 MPs elected in each of the 13 districts.
Apportionment method: Single Transferable Vote scheme.
Total number of seats: 65 fixed seats + additional seats to reflect overall first voting preferences in the House of Representatives.
Electoral threshold: candidates must obtain at least one vote more than the total number of valid votes divided by 6.
Issues of European relevance: there will be six parties running, more than have ever been in the race for the past 55 years. However, two parties alone hold around 96% of the preferences in polls, making it very unlikely that any third party will manage to get a seat. As both the dominant parties are pro-EU, this elections is one that has not worried the echelons of the EU institutions, a welcome respite from the Eurosceptic candidates that have been much more competitive in other elections at the State level.
The social-democratic Labour Party represents the outgoing majority led by Joseph Muscat, former Prime Minister. Its key pledge is to improve governance by introducing a transparency register for key public figures to declare their commercial interests. Socially speaking, the party adopted a very environmentalist approach: its proposals include both the creation of a tribunal designated to deal with environmental crimes, and to plant a tree for every new-born child. They are also supporting education by proposing to extent the provision of a tablet computer to every secondary school child, and to increase grants to higher education students.
The main opposition is the centre-right Nationalist Party, led by Simon Busuttil. Amongst its manifesto pledges there is a package of tax reduction incentives for workers, families, and businesses. It has also pledged to create 30.000 new high-paying jobs in sectors such as technology and digital media. Other proposals include introducing free school-transport for pupils and creating a country-wide metro system, in a bid to reduce traffic, as well as offering free childcare for all. Moreover, Busuttil has stated that his party would support the legalisation of gay marriage, even though his MPs had abstained during the parliamentary vote for civil unions, and would be increasing pensions to minimum wage level.
The race between the two will be very close according to the polls, with Labour currently leading the race with 52% of the preferences, while the Nationalist Party lags 4 points behind with 47.5%. Ultimately, it will be the still large amount of undecided voters who will swing the election, but neither option is predicted to have a large impact outside of Maltese politics.
The other four minor parties are the green Democratic Alliance, the most successful third party in the country; the Christian conservative Alleanza Bidla, which has been mainly campaigning against the EU; the far-right and equally Eurosceptic Maltese Patriot Movement, particularly vocal in regards to its opposition to immigration and Islam; and the Democratic Party, technically a centre-left party, but which will be running candidates under the same banner as the Nationalist Party.