Parties agree on 'election' of sixth MEP in June
The two main political parties have agreed that the election of the sixth Maltese member of the European Parliament would be based on the outcome of June's elections even though the successful candidate would only take up the seat in Brussels if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force.
The Nationalist and Labour parties felt such an arrangement would give the electorate full control of who to send to Brussels. They were expected to hold talks over the coming weeks to pave the way for changes to electoral laws in time for the June 6 elections, spokesmen for both parties said.
Malta had managed to secure the allocation of an additional MEP during negotiations on the Lisbon Treaty, increasing it representatives in the Parliament from five to six. However, the Irish rejection of the Treaty scuppered plans to have the European Parliament's new representational structure in place by June.
Malta's sixth seat will only become available if and when the new Treaty enters into force in January, should the Irish electorate give its consent in a second referendum expected to be held in autumn.
Although Malta can elect its sixth representative by direct nomination from the Maltese Parliament, both the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party (PL) recognise that this is not the best way to go.
Paul Borg Olivier, the PN's general secretary, said the electoral system provided for the election of five members to the European Parliament, so one could not categorically provide for a sixth seat without changing the law. However the PN, he added, favoured the idea that the electorate should choose the potential sixth MEP in June.
"The PN looks at the issue in a sense that the sixth seat in the European Parliament, as and when allotted to Malta, should always reflect the will of the electorate at the time of them casting their vote in electing their representatives. The party believes that the parameters of this process should be made clear before the country is called to cast its vote."
Labour agrees and goes one step further, suggesting how the sixth seat should be chosen.
"Our preferred option for discussion is to have the candidate who places de facto sixth in June's elections to be Malta's sixth MEP when and if the Lisbon Treaty finally comes into force," PL spokesman Kurt Farrugia said.
However, although this may sound simple, an election observer explained that the issue was quite complicated and had to be addressed through changes to the electoral law. "Although the two parties are agreeing that Malta's sixth potential MEP should be chosen in June, one has to see how they will be sorting out the issue of how to calculate the sixth place. Will it be the runner-up on an electoral quota calculated on five or six seats?
The sixth placing could result to be different if calculated on a quota based on five or six seats."
Another option. the observer said, would be to leave the process unchanged and then make a re-count of the votes based on a quota of six seats when the sixth seat eventually became available.
However, according to the observer, the PN and the PL should be able to sort this dilemma out before proposing the necessary changes to the electoral laws.