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That vote abroad

A couple of months ago Simon Busuttil visited the Luxembourg expat community in his capacity as EU MEP. Exceptionally I decided to attend the meeting and had a cordial chat with Simon. I say “expat community” but I mean “Maltese EU institution workers” because there is no kidding oneself here – that is what most of the Maltese community in Luxembourg is about.

One of the issues raised was the question of voting abroad and Simon Busuttil did mention that he was “working on it” (remember – he was still mainly an MEP at the time) but that they had encountered problems in defining the right. Which is when the “Australia” bomb dropped with perfect timing. It always comes up. “What do we do with the expat community in Australia?” Well, I have a few ideas myself but frankly I do find this foot shuffling excuse to be the pits of partisan hypocrisy.

The issue needs to be tackled in steps. I’d begin with the obvious. There are by now hundreds of Maltese employed by international institutions. Their legal status is not hazy – it is rather clear. They do not become residents of Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany or wherever they are posted but rather get into a vacuum that is being a recognised resident for work purposes but not for voting purposes at national level. Which makes sense really. Even the way salaries are calculated for EU civil servants acknowledges the animus revertendi of the workers (the intention to return to their mother country). Part of an EU wage includes an expatriation allowance – paid in order for the employee to be able to return regularly to the country he calls home.

So how difficult can it be for Maltese electoral law to begin by recognising this fact and allowing for such institution workers to (at least) vote in their respective embassies. Not as difficult (or as expensive) as the regular rustle of electoral lists, flight charters and illegal probing into private details by parties surely. Not as expensive as the eco-footprint of the flights that carry the eager voters to their ballots in their home district.

There are no two ways about it. The PL and the PN are firmly entrenched against the idea of allowing voters abroad to exercise their right practically without having to take days off work. Instead they regale us with such beauties as “it is an academic exercise because the law was not changed in time” – who did not change it I ask?

Then you get the genius labour way of thinking: Why should we bother fighting for their rights if they do not vote for us? Based of course on the assumption that all expats are blue-eyed boys (remember Alfred Sant tabling the list in parliament of private citizens who had availed themselves of the charter flight?). Twisted reasoning like this can only be the ugly offspring of partisan politics. Alternattiva demokratika is firmly committed to change this sorry state of affairs and does not do sorry excuses of the Australian kind.

Ah yes. Did I mention the “Australia scare”? It’s a bit like the “wasted vote” on the eve of elections. The parties will tell you that there are over 1 million Maltese living abroad – and do you want them to vote for you? 1 million Maltese eh….We all know the answer to that one – and somehow I think that the bemused Melbourne, Toronto or New York second-generation Maltese would have an answer to that one too. Change the incentive from “free flight home” to a trip to the nearest embassy and we’ll see how quickly voters choose to exercise their right.

Next time you speak of free flights and free holidays think again. You should be speaking of expensive bills chosen by the PL and the PN… because the only ones benefiting from the current system are the same old dinosaurs that you chose to vote for.

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Toni Sant January 4, 2013, 12:07 pm

    Wow! This is excellent Jacques. Do you think anything will actually be done about it in our lifetime? :-)

  • expatsInMalta January 5, 2013, 11:50 pm

    Jacques I’m glad that you put up that video after what you wrote. Whilst people in Europe are fighting for the right to vote in national elections of the country they moved to, you’re still stuck in the Maltese (sick) neverending saga of the way expats should vote in the national election of the country of origin. I’m not saying that you don’t have the right to vote, but please give us something different, not more of the same.

    Think about this situation – an English man settled in Malta 20 years ago. He bought residence here, speaks Maltese (unlike many San Anton pupils), but he still cannot vote in the national election. How is that for EU spirit ? Are vera European rights ghal fuq il-karta biss qedin (u ghal dawk il-ftit li jpappuwha sew bl-expatriation allowance biex imorru jaraw lil mama. Gazaza allowance ikun jonqoshom biss).

    • Andreas Moser January 6, 2013, 4:51 pm

      An expat with these qualifications and length of residency could long ago have applied for citizenship in Malta, making him fully eligibly to vote in al elections. If he does not choose to do so, that is his decision, not a problem of “European rights”.

    • Jacques Rene Zammit January 6, 2013, 6:02 pm

      Tajba expatsinMalta. The twisted reasoning continues. Let’s start with the Englishman – he has two choices – either to hang on to his voting rights in the UK that are adequately guaranteed for 20 years and that would allow him to vote from a distance, or he can opt to choose for new citizenship.

      Nothing at all to do of course with the situation of EU institution workers in Europe. What something different do you want? Something fuelled by the usual ignorant spite of “pampered citizens abroad” or “too much money earned and we shouldn’t pay their flights”? Ridiculous. Especially when what I am advocating is the possibility of voting in our embassies on the mainland thus saving the 300 euro per head that are spent on getting voters to Malta to please the PLPN. My point is that zou should not be taking out you misplaced anger on expats but on the parties you choose to pander too who are quite happy with the status quo.

      “I’m not saying that you don’t have the right to vote, but please give us something different, not more of the same.” – No you are saying you’d rather spout facile arguments about the cost of flights without simply admitting that the expat vote can be catered for practically and conveniently with ballot boxes in the various states where EU institutions are hosted.

  • expatsInMalta January 7, 2013, 12:39 am

    The expatriation allowance has nothing to do with voting. Sorry jekk niggiztek fuq din. Workers at EU institutions gazaza biss jonqoshom… mit-taxxi taghna ovvjament.

    • Jacques René Zammit January 7, 2013, 12:42 am

      Ma niggiztx. Urejtni biss kif ma tapprezzax id-differenza bejn dritt tal-vot u kif jinghata. Ovvja li trid tattakka il-hela imma minflok tattakka min hu kawza tal-hela (il-PLPN) tippreferi taqa f’kwalunkwizmi. Kif spjegajt qabel il-haddiema fl-EU ghandhom dritt ta’ vot u vot fl-elezzjoni nazzjonali ta’ Malta. Issa jew tipprova tirraguna kif dan isir b’mod prattiku u efficenti jew taqa fin-nassa komuni tal-ghira ecc…

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