Election Resources on the Internet:
Parliamentary Elections in Malta - Elections to the House of Representatives
by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera

The Republic of Malta held a general election on Saturday, March 9, 2013, following the collapse of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's government on December 10, 2012. An overview of the proportional representation system used to choose members of the Mediterranean island nation's unicameral Parliament - the House of Representatives - is presented here.

May 22-25, 2014 European election results will be available here. The Government of Malta will also have detailed 2014 European election results for Malta here.

Nationwide and district-level results are available here for the following House elections:

      March 9, 2013      
      March 8, 2008      
      April 12, 2003      
      September 5, 1998      
      October 26, 1996      
      February 22, 1992      
      May 9, 1987      
      December 12, 1981      
      September 17-18, 1976      

Nationwide totals are also available for the following House elections:

      June 12-14, 1971      
      March 26-28, 1966      
      February 17-19, 1962      

The election statistics presented in this space come from reports and data files published by Prof. John C. Lane's Elections in Malta, the Department of Information of Malta and the Electoral Commission of Malta.


The Electoral System

The Parliament of Malta consists of the President and a single chamber, the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives is composed of 65 members directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a five-year term of office. House elections are carried out in thirteen five-member constituencies by the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, which combines proportional representation (PR) with preferential voting. Under this system, voters indicate a first preference for one candidate, and may rank the remaining candidates in successive order of preferences on the ballot paper.

In each constituency, House seats are awarded to candidates who attain the constituency quota, calculated by dividing the number of valid first preference votes cast in the constituency by one more than the number of seats to be filled, and then adding one to the result. A candidate whose first preference vote total equals or exceeds the quota is immediately elected; if the candidate obtained more first preference votes than the quota, the surplus is distributed among the remaining candidates, in proportion to the second preferences of all votes cast for the successful candidate. The surplus transfer may result in the election of one or more candidates, in whose case the described procedure is repeated. However, if there are unallocated seats after transferring surplus votes from elected candidates, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and the preferences of the eliminated candidate are transferred to the remaining candidates. These two processes are repeated until all seats are filled.

Under the terms of a 1987 constitutional amendment (revised in 1996), if a political party won an absolute majority of valid first preference votes but obtained fewer House seats than the remaining parties' combined total, or if only two parties secured parliamentary representation and the party with the largest number of votes did not obtain the largest number of seats, then the largest party's seat total was increased until it attained a one-seat majority. A further 2007 revision of the aforementioned amendment provides for the increase in the number of seats won by a party in the event its proportion of House mandates is smaller than its share of first preference votes, excluding votes cast for parties that fail to win any House seats. The additional seats are allocated according to the lowest ratio of first preference votes to House seats among qualifying parties, and assigned to the party's defeated candidates with the largest number of votes at the last count.

The Political Parties

While proportional representation electoral systems such as STV are usually conducive to multi-party politics, Malta stands out as an exception to the rule: since the country attained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1964, the existing multi-party system has evolved into a two-party system in which the right-of-center Nationalist Party (PN) and the moderately leftist Malta Labour Party (MLP) have alternated in power. In addition to PN and MLP, Malta has a third party, the environmentalist-oriented Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party (AD), which has contested every House of Representatives election since 1992. However, since 1966 only PN and MLP have been represented in Parliament.

PN held power from 1964 to 1971, when MLP won a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Labour was returned to power with a slightly larger three-seat majority in the 1976 and 1981 general elections, but in the latter the party polled fewer first preference votes than PN, and the outcome of the election triggered a major political crisis. The 1987 general election produced a result nearly identical to that of the preceding election - once again, PN obtained a narrow absolute majority of first preference votes, yet came up three seats behind MLP - but a constitutional amendment adopted prior to the event gave the Nationalists a one-seat majority in an expanded House of Representatives. Save for a brief interval between 1996 and 1998 in which Labour held office, PN remained in power until 2013, when MLP won a landslide victory.

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Copyright © 2007-2014 Manuel Álvarez-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.
Last update: May 25, 2014.