The Malta Independent 25 April 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial: EP elections - Another round of voter disenfranchisement beckons

Thursday, 31 January 2019, 10:38 Last update: about 4 months ago

We have taken some great strides of late when it comes to reforming the electoral system such as introduction of Vote 16, the rolling electoral register and the advent of electronic vote counting come the next elections this coming May.

Those moves eliminated much of the voter disenfranchisement that had touched upon thousands of people, but there is one huge leap that still has to be taken: the enfranchisement of the disenfranchised voters who live abroad.

Ironically, many of those people work for the European Union, which keeps them away from their home country for long stretches, but, ironically, they will not even be able to participate in the electoral process of the institution for which they work, because they work there.

Strange but true, and people working for Brussels is quite beside the point.  The point is that all Maltese citizens, wherever they may roam - be it in Australia or as close by as Italy - should be given the facility to vote, and there are a number of ways in which this could be done.

But first and foremost, what we need is a change in legislation.  As matters stand, the law stipulates that in order to be eligible to vote one must now be over 16 years of age and have aggregately lived in Malta for six months out of the 18 months prior to the publication of an electoral register

The European Commission has been taking Malta to task since at least 2011 over this flagrant disenfranchisement of Maltese voters.  Malta is, in fact, one of just five EU member states who inflict voter disenfranchisement on their citizens who live abroad.  Out of those five countries (Malta plus Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, and the United Kingdom) Malta’s six months out of the last 18 rule is viewed, by far, as the most prohibitive in the bloc.

The right to vote is, after all, a sacrosanct right that needs to be applied appropriately in each and every instance.  It is, in so many ways, the very essence of nationality but it is being denied unjustly, even in the eyes of the European Union.

But in the meantime it seems that just as the requirement to have lived in the country for an effective year before becoming a citizen-purchasing citizen is being ignored, and such people are even able to purchase credits against time they have to spend in Malta by making philanthropic donations, born and bred Maltese who live abroad are not allowed to vote.

There appears to be a serious incongruence here, if not an outright slap in the face to those Maltese who are continuously denied that very same right – itself a rarity in Europe and a state of affairs that Europe is attempting to force Malta to set right, with little success so far.

It has created a situation in which a Maltese national who lives abroad cannot vote, but a foreign national who purchased citizenship and rarely even visits the country just might make the cut.  If this were to be the case in just one instance, it would be nothing short than a national insult.

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