Late jus­tice, but jus­tice

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

The long-fought bat­tle by the Na­tion­al­ist Party to get re­dress for a mis­take that took place in the count­ing hall in 2013 fi­nally ob­tained re­sults with yes­ter­day’s de­ci­sion by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to as­sign two ad­di­tional seats to the Op­po­si­tion.

Mis­takes can al­ways hap­pen. And elec­toral sys­tems can de­liver mis­takes.

We have just seen how in the US elec­tions, pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump ob­tained less votes than Hil­lary Clin­ton but was de­clared pres­i­dent through the elec­toral votes which are not ex­actly pro­por­tional. When the same thing hap­pened in Malta in 1981, a five-year cri­sis fol­lowed which was only solved by the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment of 1987.

In the US there is now talk of re­counts be­ing asked for by a few who hope to un­seat Don­ald Trump in this man­ner. Such at­tempts look for­lorn even from here. One prin­ci­ple which should have been in­sisted upon with re­gards to yes­ter­day’s court case is that jus­tice should be prompt. Jus­tice de­layed is jus­tice de­nied. The govern­ment speak­ers yes­ter­day

Edi­tor’s pick

ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment with the judg­ment be­cause the five mem­ber gap there is now be­tween govern­ment and Op­po­si­tion does not re­spect the 36,000 ma­jor­ity this govern­ment ob­tained in March 2013. That is true but one must also re­mem­ber that due to the late­ness of the de­ci­sion, the two persons who will now be­come MPs will ben­e­fit for just a year and a bit in­stead of the five years they should have had. Work that on your cal­cu­la­tor. The govern­ment has not come out with fly­ing colours in this case. It tried all the tricks in its box.

That re­minds us of the ob­sti­nacy with which the Labour lead­er­ship re­fused to ac­cept the need for change af­ter the 1981 elec­tion: ‘over my dead body’ was how one min­is­ter, still alive, put it. In­stead, hon­esty should have de­manded that a clear and ev­i­dent mis­take should have been cor­rected as soon as it was no­ticed.

Dur­ing the count­ing process, there would be many in­stances when mis­takes hap­pen but for­tu­nately most are picked up and quickly solved in pri­vate dis­cus­sions be­tween the par­ties. Some­how, this mis­take was not im­me­di­ately picked up – which shows some­thing hap­pened to the PN elec­toral ma­chine fac­ing such a trau­matic de­feat. But when it was in­deed picked up, there was not the pos­i­tive re­sponse from the govern­ment side, drunk on the nine-man ma­jor­ity.

That was bad, it does not bode well for our democ­racy. It shows that there is a core in­side Labour that wants to win at all costs, even with a nine seat ma­jor­ity. Heaven help us if the is­sue be­comes a fight for one or two seats. This seems en­demic with Labour, PN never did so, it pre­ferred to lose elec­tions and go into Op­po­si­tion than twist the rules of the game.

It shows there is no un­der­stand­ing of the ba­sic rules of democ­racy, just like in foot­ball, a team which does not want to abide by the rules of the game is quickly kicked out.

At this point, a sus­pi­cion creeps in: maybe it was in an­tic­i­pa­tion of such a de­ci­sion that Labour has been pack­ing the court with judges and mag­is­trates from its ranks.

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