The Malta Independent 24 June 2019, Monday

Updated (3): Constitutional Court orders PN to be given 2 more seats in House, appeal to be filed

Therese Bonnici Thursday, 5 February 2015, 13:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

The First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction has ruled in favour of the Nationalist Party and ordered that it be given two additional seats in parliament within 30 days.

The court's decision came after the Nationalist Party filed a Constitutional application where it alleged that the House of Representatives' composition was flawed because of a mistake in the counting process.

PN secretary-general Chris Said hailed the Court’s “historic decision."

The Nationalist Party has been proven right in that during the election process a mistake led to the Labour Party winning a nine-seat majority instead of a seven-seat majority, Dr Said said shortly after the Court ruling.

He appealed to all the parties involved including the electoral commission not to waste anymore time, as the PN has already been denied two MPs for almost two years since the 2013 election. 

The application had been filed by the PN and MPs Claudette Buttigieg and Frederick Azzopardi, who argued that parliament's composition did not reflect the will of the voters. The discrepancy was on the 8th and 13th district, the PN said, where 50 votes which were given to Ms Buttigieg and 10 votes which were given to Frederick Azzopardi were thrown away. This resulted in Edward Scicluna and Justyne Caruana being elected on those districts instead of them. The court, presided over by Madam Justice Jacqueline Padovani declared that there were "shortcomings in the process" on both districts in question and this was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The court ruled that the electoral result did not truly reflect the wish of the electorate. In addition, the judgment states that shortcomings in the electoral process used denied Claudette Buttigieg from being elected sua sponte (on her own accord) and led to the seat gap between the major political parties to be of 9 instead of 7.

Due to errors in the counting process, Claudette Buttigieg and Frederick Azzopardi failed to be elected from the district eight, and district 13 respectively, and were appointed MPs when the Nationalist Party was allocated extra seats to make up for the discrepancy between the number of votes won and seats obtained caused by the electoral system, to ensure proportionality.

The court judgment added that the electoral commission had failed to acknowledge the mistake in its entirety, and failed to come up with an adequate solution, when it was evident that a mistake had been carried out during the first count vote.

The judgment ruled that a mistake concerning 50 votes is not one to be taken lightly, especially in a country where a candidate can win over his competitor with only a few votes.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the government took notice of the court judgment and will file an appeal. The PN case was filed against the Electoral Commission, so technically speaking it is the Commission which has to appeal, although third parties can also seek redress.

In statement, the government said that it will appeal, saying that in the last election, the Labour Party obtained 167,533 votes as against the Nationalist Party's 132,426. This mathematically translates into a majority of nine seats according to the proportionality system employed in the electoral system.

The Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church held a meeting with Attorney General Peter Grech.

For its part, the Labour Party said that the election result does not change - it will still remain the largest ever victory obtained by a party in a Maltese election. Proportionality should result in nine seats, and yet the Constitutional court decided otherwise.

If such a judgment had been given in the past legislature, this would have meant a change of government, the PL said.



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