The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

Malta facing renewed calls to end voter disenfranchisement

Sunday, 8 July 2018, 08:30 Last update: about 5 years ago

With the European Parliament elections just round the corner, Malta is facing renewed calls to end the disenfranchisement of Maltese nationals who live overseas.

The European Commission has repeatedly called on Malta and the five other countries to stop disenfranchising citizens by not allowing them to vote unless they reside in their home countries.

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The others are: Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

In Malta, the issue is a bone of contention each time a general election rolls around, with political parties lodging court cases to have certain people struck from the electoral register under the voter registration rules in place. 

Citizens are disenfranchised unless they have resided in Malta for at least six months within the last 18 preceding their registration to vote.

The issue is currently before the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, and MEP Cecilia Wikström has now raised the issue with the European Commission.

She observes that, “Six EU Member States (Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom) deprive their nationals of the right to vote in national elections on account of residence abroad, on the basis of the assumption that expatriates are not affected by political decisions taken in their country of origin.

“These Member States also disenfranchise their nationals in European elections if they live permanently in a third country. Limiting or depriving citizens of their right to vote once they move to another EU country could be seen as an infringement on freedom of movement under EU law.

“The right to vote in elections is a fundamental right common to the constitutional traditions of the Member States, and recognised in the EU Treaties as related to the right of political participation. Participation in the democratic life of the EU and the enjoyment of electoral rights by EU citizens living abroad in another Member State has frequently been the subject of petitions.”

She asks: “Is the Commission planning to take further action, in cooperation with the Member States, to fully protect the right of EU nationals living in another EU Member State to vote in their home elections and referenda, as pledged in its 2017 Citizenship Report? Has the Commission informed all the Member States concerned of the number of complaints lodged by citizens relating to disenfranchisement?

“Could the Commission report back on the treatment of citizens’ complaints in relation to the right to freedom of movement as a result of Member States’ disenfranchisement of their voting rights when resident abroad? Does the Commission consider this a violation of the right to free movement, and does it intend to take further action to remove the existing obstacles so that citizens can participate in the democratic life of the Union, as guaranteed by Article 10(3) of the TEU?

“Does the Commission intend to propose measures concerning the European elections, in order to safeguard the right of all EU citizens to choose to vote either in their Member State of origin or in the host Member State?”

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