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Malta - Politics

Two parties (or movements as they prefer to call themselves) dominate Maltas polarized and evenly divided politics -- the Nationalist Party, led by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, and the Malta Labor Party. The Nationalist Party Government applied in 1990 to join the EU and received a positive European Commission Opinion in 1993. The Labour Government of 1996-1998 froze, but did not withdraw, the membership application. The Nationalist Party reactivated it on their return to office in 1998. EU accession negotiations were completed in December 2002. A referendum in March 2003 was won by those in favor of EU membership.

Although the referendum in 2003 on EU membership gave the Nationalist Party (PN) government a mandate to proceed with ratifying the treaty for accession to the EU in May 2004, the opposition continued to insist that it would take Malta out of the Union if it won the election in 2004, and so the government called an early election.

On 12 April 2003 the Nationalist Party retained power for 5 years with over 51% of the vote, which decisively closed the EU debate. This decisive election victory enabled Fenech Adami to sign the Accession Treaty in Athens in April 2003. Following the election, the Malta Labour Party, which had won 30 seats, decided to end its opposition to EU membership, thus ending a long and intense period when political activity was focused on one issue.

In March 2004, soon after Edward Fenech-Adamis 70th birthday, he retired as Prime Minister and was replaced by Lawrence Gonzi. In March 2004 Fenech Adami was elected President of Malta by Parliament and assumed office on 4 April 2004. He replaced Professor Guido de Marco for a 5-year term.

In 2008 the Malta Labor Party renamed itself simply the Labor Party (Partit Laburista (PL)) and chose a new leader, former European Parliament member Joseph Muscat. Elections invariably generate a widespread voter turnout; in March 2008 the turnout was 93%. The margin between the two parties is so narrow that a 52% share of the votes is considered a "landslide" for the winning party. In the March 2008 elections, the Nationalist Party won reelection with 49.3% of the vote, earning it 35 seats, while the Labor Party received 48.8% of the vote (and 34 seats). While the two main parties dominate, two other parties were on the ballot in 2008, Alternative Demokratika (Green Party) and Azzjoni Nazzjonali (National Action--which since then has altered its role from a political party to an organization); neither managed to secure a seat in parliament.

In April 2009, at the end of President Fenech-Adamis five-year term, Dr George Abela was unanimously elected President by parliament. The second round of European Parliament elections, held in June 2009, resulted in the election of the two incumbent Nationalist Party members of parliament (MPs) and three candidates for the Labor Party, including two incumbent MPs, as well as the possibility of a fourth candidate, once Malta gets the sixth seat in the European Parliament.

On 10 December 2012 the government lost its one-vote majority and was unable to enact its 2013 budget. Parliament was dissolved in January 2013 and an election called. In March 2013 the government won the general election with an "overwhelming" majority. PL secured 39 seats, with 54.8 per cent of votes cast, and PN 30 seats with 43.3 per cent. Turnout was again 93 percent.

During the election campaign, the PN, which had otherwise governed without interruption since 1987, ran on the government's record, stating that it had managed to avert the economic turmoil affecting other euro zone countries in the Mediterranean. The government generated a dynamic economy, reduced taxes, got rid of cancer-causing energy sources, improved social benefits and students stipends, given long-overdue rights, broken all employment records in employment and foreign investment among other notable achievements while retaining a healthy majority. The MLP promised to reduce electricity prices by 25% and to tackle corruption.

In April 2014, at the end of President Abelas five-year term, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca was unanimously elected President by parliament.

Contempt of the president remains punishable by one to three months imprisonment or a fine. It is also a criminal offense to offend public morality, propriety, or decency. The law also criminalizes speech that promotes hatred on grounds of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, language, ethnic origin, religion or belief, or political or other opinion. There are daily and weekly newspapers in English, including The Malta Independent, The Malta Independent on Sunday, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Malta Business Weekly and Malta Today, and daily and weekly papers in Maltese. The principal newspapers in Maltese have political affiliations, for example In-Nazzjon (daily) and Il-Mument (weekly) with the Nationalist Party, and L-Orizzont (daily) and It-Torca (weekly) with the General Workers Union.

Television Malta is a public channel, which began broadcasting in 1962, and Radio Malta has provided public radio since the mid- 1930s. Other TV channels and radio stations are owned by the political parties, the Roman Catholic Church or commercial broadcasters. Net TV is owned by the Nationalist Party and Super One TV by the Partit Laburista (Labour Party). Cable TV was introduced in 1992 and many households have satellite receivers. Virtually all households have at least one TV set. Digital radio broadcasting was launched in 2008. It is also possible to receive the broadcasts of Italian radio and TV in Malta.



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