The Malta Independent 6 December 2021, Monday

TMID Editorial: An election is no substitute for due legal process

Monday, 12 June 2017, 10:32 Last update: about 5 years ago

In an interview granted to iNews, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat claimed that Konrad Mizzi had already been found not guilty by the popular vote in the election.

The fact that Dr Mizzi was re-elected, and from two districts too, seems to be for Dr Muscat a clear not guilty verdict delivered not by the court as duly constituted but by a ‘court of the people’.

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One should not take this quotation to extremes but the implications it raises are quite worrying.

An election is the people’s verdict on the operation of the administration over the legislature that is coming to a close and on the programmes submitted by the parties contending the election. In that sense, the people’s verdict is a judgment.

But this popular judgment cannot and should not substitute the due legal process where a person is either found guilty or found not guilty.

Mixing the two together can lead to some quite dangerous conclusions especially where the rule of law is concerned and the democratic process of an election are concerned.

Coming so soon after the election and its result, this statement by the prime minister goes counter to his other statement that this government aims at bringing peace and harmony to a country wracked by pre-electoral conflict. There can be no peace and harmony if the due processes of the law are not followed.

For those who have lived through the turbulent 1970s and 1980s in Malta, such words, maybe beyond the prime minister’s intention, echo the threats uttered by Dom Mintoff and his successor Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici of ‘courts of the people’ (qrati tal-poplu) which were modeled on what was going on in communist countries such as China in the cultural revolution and in Ceausescu’s Romania.

The long hard struggle which the Maltese people, led by the Nationalist Party, undertook to ensure the primacy of legal processes should not be forgotten, nor undermined.

The Independence Constitution is still operative in Malta after all these 50+ years. It has been amended in places, and maybe needs more structural amendments, but it still enshrines the principles of equality before the law, an independent judiciary and the rest.

The people must resist with all the means at their disposal any attempt to dilute the Constitution and on the contrary must move to shore up those parts of the Constitution that have become rather frayed by the passage of time.

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