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Government pledges Constitutional reform as 13th legislature gets underway

President Coleiro Preca delivers parliament's opening address

Malta’s 13th parliament will begin the process which will lead to a Constitutional Convention intended to modernise national institutions and strengthen local democracy, reviving a pledge first made by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in the run-up to the 2013 election.

The pledge to renew the nation’s Constitution was made in an address delivered by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, marking the opening of parliament following the June 3 general election.

In line with tradition, the address was written by the Prime Minister but read out by the head of state Ms Coleiro Preca from the Speaker's chair.

“This government believes that the new Constitution can be the tool that unites our country and prepares it for the challenges ahead,” the President read, having started the speech by it would take more than days or weeks to heal “scars of division”, and that doing so would require a cultural change across the nation.

PL MP Edward Zammit Lewis shakes the hand of a passer-by as PN MP Jason Azzopardi looks on and smiles. Photo: DOI/Clifton FenechPL MP Edward Zammit Lewis shakes the hand of a passer-by as PN MP Jason Azzopardi looks on and smiles. Photo: DOI/Clifton Fenech

Government's key aims

Parliament’s opening address is intended to lay out the incoming government’s legislative programme, and in a 20-minute speech Ms Coleiro Preca listed some of the Labour government’s priorities for its five-year term in government.

In the immediate term, the government will prioritise ensuring Air Malta remains a viable airline. “Even here, we need national cooperation among political parties, stakeholders and unions,” the speech noted.

Among the government’s key aims:

• Ensure economic growth remains above the European average

• Develop new economic sectors such as fintech, life sciences and logistics

• The creation of an Environmental Court and enshrining protection of public spaces, the right to clean air and environmental protection in the Constitution

• Introduce electoral quotas to encourage women to enter politics and reduce the voting age to 16

• Increase childcare allowances by €200 for low-income families and €100 for everyone else, with every mother receiving €300 for each child she gave birth to or adopted

• A “substantial” increase in social housing projects and elimination of allocation waiting lists

• Ensure Gozo is physically and virtually connected to Malta, by pursuing an undersea tunnel project, a fast ferry service and also a second fibre-optic cable for stronger internet connectivity.

• Discussions about the removal of parliamentary privilege for MPs

• Ambassadors and high-ranking regulatory officials to be scrutinised by Parliament

Archbishop Charles Scicluna celebrated mass at St John's co-Cathedral. Photo: Darrin Zammit LupiArchbishop Charles Scicluna celebrated mass at St John's co-Cathedral. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

In line with a pledge made by Dr Muscat earlier this month, the speech steered clear of partisan rhetoric, in contrast to the controversial 2013 speech delivered by President Coleiro Preca's predecessor George Abela. 

Speaker unanimously approved 

Unlike what happened in 2013 at the start of the 12th legislature, the Opposition backed the nomination of Anglu Farrugia as Speaker, with Opposition leader Simon Busuttil saying it was doing so “despite us not being consulted.” Dr Busuttil said the Opposition was willing to extend “a hand of cooperation” at the start of the legislature.

After motions to appoint Dr Farrugia and deputy speaker Claudette Buttigieg were both passed unanimously, Malta’s parliamentary members took it in turns to take their parliamentary oaths and assume their seats as MPs.

Archbishop leads co-Cathedral mass

Earlier, MPs and dignitaries attended a mass held at St John’s co-Cathedral. Archbishop Charles Scicluna used his homily to remind parliamentarians that although it was natural for them to seek success, this had to be subordinate to justice and the “will to do what is right.”

“Without justice – what else is the State but a great band of robbers?” the Archbishop said, quoting St Augustine.

MPs, led by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, then walked the short distance between the co-Cathedral and Parliament as passers-by applauded and shook their hands. 

For the first time in Maltese history, the cortege took a left turn when it reached Republic Street, with this being the first legislature to open in the new Parliament building, rather than Parliament's old seat at the Grandmaster's Palace.  

Following President Coleiro Preca's address, the youngest MP in the House - Labour's Rosianne Cutajar - presented a motion in reply to the address.  

To read the President's speech in full, click the pdf link below. 

Attached files

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