The Times of Malta
June 6, 2004
Summary: A discussion of Malta's voter turnout and
political awareness, and its connection to the use of choice voting.
The Times of Malta
Editorial: Voting Intelligently
June 6, 2004
One very encouraging result from the public opinion survey we are publishing
today is that 85 per cent of respondents said they intend to vote in Saturday's
election of five members of the European Parliament. Another 7.7 per cent were
still undecided, while 7.3 per cent said they did not intend to vote.
In this, at least, tiny Malta could set an example to the other 24 member
states by registering what will probably be the highest voter turnout in the
European Union. A high turnout of course indicates a high political awareness,
if not, perhaps, enthusiasm for the EU.
But Saturday's election is also going to be a first in Malta's history on a
number of counts: it is the first to elect five Maltese to a supranational
parliament; it is the first in which Malta and Gozo form a single constituency;
it is also the first national election since 1987 where the extra
"weighting" given to the No.1 vote after the Constitution was amended
will not apply.
This last characteristic is very important, because it restores the full
power of the single transferable vote to what it was before 1987, namely it does
not give extra (and determining) weighting to the first preference expressed by
the voter; each preference will have equal validity.
Of course all 27 candidates (including 10 independents) are vying for the No.
1 vote, but the absence of the 50 per cent-plus-one constraint means that voters
can express their preferences for all 27 if they want to without fearing that
they would thereby jeopardise the formation of a government by the party they
support or risk electing a party they would least like to see in power.
Indeed, if electors vote intelligently enough, they can decide, by expressing
their preferences, even which of the candidates of the party they do not support
Saturday's vote is to elect five candidates to represent Malta and Gozo in
the EU parliament which among other things determines the size and composition
of the Union's budget, and therefore of Malta's share in it. It will also have
an increasing say in matters which will affect ordinary citizens' daily lives.
An important consideration in voting for our candidates is how well equipped
they are - in terms of knowledge of EU affairs, enthusiasm for the cause of
European unity, a certain experience in politics and parliamentary life, and
above all, their reliability to promote Malta's interests within the context of
the wider European whole. They should, in other words, be candidates who would
do us proud.
A number of candidates fit the bill. Apart from the independents or so-called
parties formed for the occasion, the three established political parties all
claim to have chosen the best candidates. The particular circumstances of this
election make it possible, in fact, to vote for the best individuals of all
parties and of all candidates - in order of preference, naturally.
The Nationalist Party justifiably claims that it has devoted years and years
of hard work, investing a lot of single-minded determination, to successfully
take Malta into Europe, and that it would therefore simply be an act of
historical justice to have as many as possible of its candidates elected to the
According to our survey, at least 36.5 per cent of those interviewed agree.
But, judging from the large number of those who would not say how they intend to
vote - 31.4 per cent - it seems that others are arguing that since this election
will not determine who will run the country, they would either vote for another
party or in some way 'punish' the Nationalist government for any sins of
omission or commission.
The government is determined to tackle the budget deficit and has introduced
much-needed reforms in money-losing state enterprises like the shipyards, PBS,
Air Malta and Gozo Channel, besides slashing government expenditure to the tune
of Lm10 million. These are not exactly popular measures, but they are necessary,
if only to avoid taking even more painful measures later on. Will the electorate
The Labour Party is trying to convince voters that its vehement opposition to
EU membership has now given way to a grudging realisation that Malta is in the
EU to stay and that the MLP is determined to make the most of the new
opportunities while minimising any disadvantages. Will it be persuasive enough?
On the other hand, Alternattiva Demokratika has always strongly supported
Malta's EU membership; its argument is that with Arnold Cassola in the
Europarliament, and thus in a position to influence a third political grouping,
Malta would be better able to safeguard its interests. In our survey, at least
nine per cent seem to think so.