070_G19_InFocus_Malta

Global

Sun, sea and… politics Joseph Muscat has had his fair share of stick since coming to power last year, with opponents criticising his proposals for springtime hunting permits and an unsympathetic asylum seeker policy Steve Mallia It had to happen someday – in 2013 the party that had governed Malta for a quarter of a century was toppled from power. Actually it had lost an election once before in that time, some 16 years earlier, but that merely proved to be a two-year hiatus. This one was very much for real, with the opposing Labour Party winning a 36,000 majority, which translated into a nine-seat parliamentary cushion. That may not sound like much in global terms, but by Maltese standards it’s a veritable tsunami. To place this victory into some kind of perspective, barely 5,000 votes separated the political divide the last time a ruling party in Malta was deposed after a long stint in power, back in 1987. More surprising was that such a slender margin came at the end of a dark period in contemporary Maltese history – characterised by political violence, gerrymandering and the demagoguery of the volatile Dom Mintoff. It is perhaps ironic that Labour was on the losing side back then. In the years that followed, Malta was transformed. The Christian Democrat Nationalist Party (PN) led by Eddie Fenech Adami brought calm to the local political scene and restored international relations with Western countries after Mintoff’s fl irtations with the East, as well as North Korea and Muammar Gaddafi ’s Libya. Under successive PN administrations, the tiny island in the centre of the Mediterranean went from being a nation stuck in the past to a fully liberalised economy – with all the benefi ts that brought with it. Fenech Adami’s crowning glory was securing EU membership after winning a referendum in 2003, while his successor, Lawrence Gonzi, took Malta into the European single currency fi ve years later. The Auberge de Castille in Valletta houses the offi ce of the Prime Minister of Malta. The building was designed by Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar in 1574 and is renowned for being one of the fi nest architectural structures in the country four 70 l www.global -br ief ing.org th quar ter 2014 global Jeannine Brown In Focus Malta


Global
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