The Bill to amend the General Elections Act gets its first reading on Monday. Among the most “innovative” of measures is the introduction of a “rolling register” allowing persons who turn 18 on the eve of an election to vote. What is conspicuous in its absence is any improvement with regard to the status of voters based abroad. This, my friends, is 2012. Malta is a member of the European Union and a huge proportion of its nationals have opted to make use of the rights of workers to free movement. A large number of Maltese are now gainfully employed as fonctionnaires within the European institutions.
I will not even entertain for one second any objection that goes in the way of “you cannot vote for Malta’s government if you do not live there”. It is rubbish, xenophobic and populist in so many ways. Take French voters for example. In the last elections France had a new constituency for Northern Europe. French expats were entitled to vote in places such as London. The Number of registered voters in the UK were around 75,000 with approximately 23,000 turning out for an evenly split vote between Sarkozy and Hollande (about 11,900 vs 11,500 votes). The United Kingdom allows its citizens to register for voting abroad with a sort of 15-year expiry date (to register to vote as an overseas voter you have to have registered to vote in the previous 15 years).
Our neighbours Italy also famously have an expat constituency- remember Cassola? Now I am prepared to accept the argument (grudgingly) that Malta is not yet ready to dedicate a seat in parliament to its expat constituency but it is downright impractical to persist with the current situation of rent-a-planeload voting instead of having the rational solution of voting in embassies.
What counts for Mater Dei and old people’s homes with more than 30 residents should surely count for BeNeLux, London and maybe Paris. No?