The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Parliament – Italy’s example

Friday, 25 September 2020, 06:50 Last update: about 26 days ago

Over the weekend Italians voted to reduce the number of Members of Parliament, cutting down the size of both Houses by one-third. The reduction had the backing of all the parties, and nearly 70 per cent of the voters who turned up at the polls in spite of Coronavirus risks supported the idea to bring down the number of MPs from 630 to 400 in the lower house and those in the Senate from 315 to 200.

The argument in favour of such a cut was that it will bring Italy’s bloated bureaucracy more in line with other European countries; those against the change said the move will weaken democracy and increase in influence of lobbyists. The proposal had passed in Parliament last year but not with the required two-thirds majority, and therefore a referendum was needed to settle the issue. 


The decision has now been made.

The reduction in the number of MPs will result in a huge drop in costs, with Italian media estimating that the country will save €1 billion in 10 years. The new law should come into effect at the next elections, due in 2023. But, in Italy, it is not hard to imagine that it could come earlier.

Here in Malta we are going in the opposite direction when it comes to the number of MPs.

Readers must be reminded that Malta already has the largest Parliament, per capita, in the European Union. We have 67 members and this means that, with a population of 500,000, they each represent 7,300 residents. There was a time when we had 69 members due to corrections made after an election to make Parliament more representative of the electors’ votes.

Luxembourg, in second place behind Malta in terms of representation, has one MP for 10,000 people, with Germany at the other end of the spectrum having one MP for every 116,000 citizens.

We also know that there are plans to increase the representation of women in the Maltese Parliament, which could possibly mean an even bigger House of Representatives.

It is unlikely that Maltese politicians will be ready to accept the idea of cutting down on the numbers. Fewer MPs would mean fewer chances of them getting elected – and losing all the benefits and perks parliamentarians enjoy, including the possibility of being named on boards of directors and being given other positions with lucrative remuneration.

There are of course ways in which the Maltese Parliament can be reduced in size, such as by having fewer but larger electoral districts, by reducing the number of MPs elected from each of the current 13 districts, or by having more but smaller electoral districts each electing three, not five, MPs.

But we’re sure that all of this will fall on deaf ears.

Earlier this year, the Chamber of Commerce suggested a reduction in size, and the introduction of full-time MPs, a proposal that in all probability was immediately shelved by both sides of the House and not given any consideration.

It is therefore improbable that the result of the Italian referendum will lead to a change of heart.


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