Labour Party (Malta)

Labour Party (Malta)
Labour Party
Partit Laburista
Leader Joseph Muscat
Founded 15 October 1920 (1920-10-15)
Headquarters Mile End Street, Ħamrun
Youth wing Labour Youth Forum
Ideology Social democracy,
Democratic socialism,
Third Way,
and previously pro-British,
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Socialist International (observer)[1]
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
European Parliament Group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Official colours Red
House of Representatives
34 / 69
European Parliament
4 / 6
Politics of Malta
Political parties

The Labour Party (PL, Maltese: Partit Laburista) is, along with the Nationalist Party, one of two major contemporary political parties in Malta. It is the party of opposition in the Maltese House of Representatives[2] where it has thirty-four of the sixty-nine seats.


Party Structure

The Party structures are the General Conference, the National Executive, the Leader and the Deputy Leaders, the Party Congress, the Party Administration, the Parliamentary Group, the Councillors' Section, the District and the Regional Administrations, the Local Committees and the Branches.[3]

The General Conference is largely made up of delegates from the Party's other constituent structures and is the Party's highest organ. The National Executive brings together the Party Administration as well as elected representatives of other constituent structures and co-ordinators. The Party Congress is made up of all members of the Party and elects the Leader and the two Deputy Leaders (one for Party, the other for Parliamentary affairs) and determines the Party's broad policy outlines. The Party Administration is made of the Party Leader, Deputy Leaders and Party officials. The Parliamentary Group and the Councillors' Section bring together the Party's elected representatives in parliament and local councils. The Party is organised geographically in the local committees (smallest) and district and regional (largest) administrations. Finally, the Branches of the Party include the women's, youth, senior and candidates' sections.

Although not formally part of the Party's structures the Party owns a number of media and communication outlets either directly or through One Productions, a holding company. The Party owns the Sunday paper Kullħadd and the on-line newspaper Maltastar and, through the holding company, One Television and One Radio which broadcast free-to-air nationally.


Foundation, first years and first government (1921–1949)

The Labour Party was founded as the Chamber of Labour (Italian: Camera del Lavoro) in 1921 by one of the union branches affiliated with the Imperial Government Workers Union. Band clubs and other organisations were invited to send delegates to the Party's founding meeting on 15 March 1921, significantly, the 30th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum.[4]

the original "Labour" logo, in use until 1933

Led by Colonel William Savona, the Party contested the general elections held in 1921 and 1924 under the new Constitution that gave the country a measure of self-government. The Labour-Constitutional alliance won the 1927 general elections, but Labour lost ground, gaining 13.9% of votes, three seats in the legislative assembly and no representation in the Senate. Strickland became Prime Minister. Labour leader Savona was not elected, and the leadership of the Labour parliamentary group was temporarily entrusted to Colonel Michael Dundon. The Presidency of the Party and leadership of the parliamentary group was taken up by Paul Boffa later that year.

Labour gained nine seats out of ten in the elections held during November, 1945, in which, contrarily to previous elections, all men over twenty-one years of age were entitled to vote. The Party's electoral programme, for the first time in Labour's history, did not make any reference to religion. Boffa's Government was supported by the General Workers' Union, and it carried out a number of reforms, such as the abolition of the senate, the abolition of plural votes, as well as the introduction of women's right to vote. However, Labour deputies resigned from their posts in July 1946 due to mass redundancies at the Dockyards. In the meantime, the 'MacMichael Constitution' had been introduced, granting self-government to the Maltese. Labour's participation in the subsequent October, 1947 elections was once again supported by the General Workers' Union. The Party won 59.9% of the vote and twenty-four seats out of the possible forty within the Legislative Assembly. Paul Boffa became Prime Minister whilst Dom Mintoff became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reconstruction. The Labour Government introduced Income Tax and Social Services for the first time in Malta.

Re-founding and return to government (1949–1958)

The Labour Party was re-founded in 1949 as a successor to the Labour Party founded in 1921. Paul Boffa, Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister since 1947, resigned and left the party because of serious disagreements with his Deputy Dom Mintoff which had led to a series of cabinet crises. Boffa formed the Malta Workers Party (MWP) while Mintoff re-organized the Labour Party as the Malta Labour Party.

The Malta Labour Party contested its first elections for the Malta Legislative Assembly the following year. The old Labour vote was split equally between the MLP and the MWP, giving them eleven members each. This allowed the Nationalist Party (PN) to have a slight edge in the formation of a government, which it did in coalition with the MWP. The government did not last long. Two other elections were held in 1951 and 1953 (the last time a coalition governed in Malta) which both saw short-lived PN-MWP coalitions and the decline in the share of votes to the MWP with increasing support for the Labour Party.

The MWP eventually disintegrated and the MLP formed a government for the first time in 1955. This legislature was dominated by the issue of integration with the United Kingdom. The party, which started its life as an anti-colonial party with the slogan "Integration or self-determination" was now inclined towards the first part of the formula. A referendum was held in 1956 but given the number of abstentions and massive opposition by the Nationalist Party and the Catholic Church, the result was inconclusive. This, together with a number of dismissals at the naval dockyard led to Mintoff's resignation and his call for massive protests in April 1958.

Malta 02 Valletta.jpg

Opposition (1958-71)

The Governor re-established direct colonial government which lasted until 1962. In the meantime, the Malta Labour Party's connections with Third World Independentist and Socialist movements, set it on a collision course with the Maltese Catholic Church, which the Party perceived as pro-British and the cause of failure of the Integration project. This led to the party leadership being interdicted from 1961 to 1964, when reading, advertising and distributing Party newspapers was deemed a mortal sin. In the 1962 elections this led to the defeat of the Party at the polls as well as a split with the creation of the Christian Workers' Party. Peace with the Church would not be made until 1969 by which time the Christian Workers' Party had disintegrated.

The MLP participated in independence talks but disagreed with what was offered, causing them to not participate in the Independence celebrations when independence was actually achieved in 1964. The party made strong gains in the 1966 elections which, however, were not enough to see it in office.

An unimportant split occurred in 1969 when the Communist Party of Malta was founded. This split happened as a result of the truce between the Malta Labour Party and local Catholic authorities. The Communist Party has since only contested the 1987 elections.

The post-Independence Mintoff governments (1971-84)

Labour won the 1971 general election and immediately set out to re-negotiate the post-Independence military and financial agreements with the United Kingdom. The government also undertook nationalization programmes and the expansion of the public sector and the welfare state. Employment laws were updated with gender equality being introduced in salary pay. In the case of civil law, civil marriage was introduced and homosexuality and adultery were decriminalised. Through a package of constitutional reforms agreed to with the Opposition, Malta became a republic in 1974.

The Party was confirmed in office in the 1976 elections. In 1981 the Party managed to hold on to a parliamentary majority, even though the opposition Nationalist Party managed an absolute majority of more than 4000 votes. A serious political crisis ensued when Nationalist MPs refused to accept the electoral result and also refused to take their seats in parliament for the first years of the legislature. Premier Mintoff called this result a "perverse" one but not an uncommon one in any parliamentary democracy. He proposed to his parliamentary group that fresh elections be held[citation needed], but most members of his Parliamentary group rejected this proposal[citation needed]. Mintoff, who had been considering vacating the party leadership position even before the elections[citation needed], voluntarily, resigned as Prime Minister and Party leader in 1984 (although he retained his parliamentary seat). A Party General Conference in that same year appointed an uncontested Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici as party leader.

The post-Mintoff era (1984–92)

The Mifsud Bonnici years were characterised by political tensions and violence. The deadlock was broken when constitutional amendments were made voted and made effective in January 1987 which guaranteed that the party with an absolute majority of votes would be given a majority of parliamentary seats in order to govern. This paved the way for the return of the Nationalist Party to government later that year.

The Labour party performed very badly in the following election in 1992, losing by nearly 13,000 votes. Mifsud Bonnici resigned due to deteriorating health and on the 26 March Labour elected Alfred Sant as the new leader.

Modernisation (post-1992)

Sant who won the election for party leader, and then modernized the party, secured a victory at the polls in 1996. Under Sant's leadership the party made several changes. The party opened the new Labour Party Headquarters in Hamrun instead of the old Macina in Cottonera. The party also made giant steps in the media by being the first Maltese political party to own its radio and television stations.

Sant managed to win comfortably the 1996 elections held on the 26th of October by over 7,500 votes on the Nationalist Party. The 1987 constitutional amendments, which secured the necessary additional seats, had to be used for the second time, having been used for the same time in 1987. This same amendment had to be used a third time in 2008

However, trouble was brewing. Mr Mintoff, for reasons known to him alone (within the MLP), started creating problems in Parliament for the one seat Labour parliamentary majority. In summer of 1998 Labour lost a division vote on the proposed Cottonera waterfront project because of Mintoff's renegation on his parliamentary group. This was considered by the Prime Minister Sant as a vote of no confidence in his government and informed the then President of the Republic that he no longer held the parliamentary majority. The President had on various occasions asked Prime Minister Alfred Sant to try and find a solution for the political crisis created, but when all attempts proved futile, had no other option but to accept Sant and his government's resignation and a call for early elections. On the 3rd August 1998, Parliament was dissolved and early elections were announced by Alfred Sant to be held on the 5th September. the Malta Labour Party was defeated with a wide 13,000 vote margin.

Back in opposition, the party campaigned unsuccessfully against EU membership, and the 'NO' camp lost the referendum for the ascension of Malta in the European Union on the 8th March (although Sant claimed victory) and was again defeated in the general election a month on, on the 12th April 2003 once more with a 12,000 vote margin. Sant resigned but stood again for election of Leadership of the Party where he was voted again as leader with more than 65% of the votes.

In June 2004 the party succeeded in obtaining a relative majority of votes in the elections held to elect the first five Maltese MEPs for the European Parliament.[5] The party elected 3 of his candidates: Joseph Muscat (later replaced by Glenn Bedingfield), John Attard Montalto and Louis Grech.

In 2008 the Labour Party lost for the third consecutive time in the 2008 general elections, obtaining 48.79% share of the vote[6] and losing the election to the Nationalist Party by just 1,580 votes or 0.5%. Following the loss of the election, Sant resigned as Labour Party leader on 10 March 2008.

The first round of the election of the new leader were held on 5 June 2008. Five members contested this election as candidates: George Abela (a former Deputy Leader), Evarist Bartolo (a frontbench MP and ex-Minister), Marie Louise Coleiro Preca (a frontbench MP and former Secretary-General of the Party), Michael Falzon (an MP and Deputy Leader of the Party) and Joseph Muscat (an MEP). In the first round neither candidate obtained 50%+1 the majority of the votes. So a run up election had to be held on the 6th June between the top two candidates who obtained the most number of votes, George Abela and Joseph Muscat. Muscat was elected Labour Party leader, gathering 66.36% of the total votes. He was co-opted in Parliament and appointed Leader of the Opposition on the 1st October.

During an Extraordinary General Conference, held in November 2008, it was decided that the party's official name will be Partit Laburista instead of its former name Malta Labour Party.

In June 2009 the party garnered 55 percent of the first preference votes in the election for the European Parliament, electing 3 MEPs who sit with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Electoral performance

General Elections

Year Votes % Seats Outcome
1921 4,037 19.72% 7 Popular Union Victory
1924 4,632 19.24% 7 Popular Union/Nationalist Party Coalition Victory
1927 5,011 14.55% 3 Constitutional Party/Labour Party Coalition Victory
1932 4,138 8.57% 1 Nationalist Party Victory
1939 3,100 8.82% 1 Constitutional Party Victory
1947 63,145 59.86% 24 Labour Party Victory
1950 30,332 28.58% 11 Nationalist Party Victory
1951 40,208 35.70% 14 Nationalist Party Victory
1953 52,771 44.55% 19 Nationalist Party Victory
1955 68,447 56.73% 23 Malta Labour Party Victory
1962 50,974 33.85% 16 Nationalist Party Victory
1966 61,774 43.09% 22 Nationalist Party Victory
1971 85,448 50.84% 28 Malta Labour Party Victory
1976 105,854 51.53% 34 Malta Labour Party Victory
1981 109,990 49.07% 34 Malta Labour Party Victory
1987 114,936 48.87% 34 Nationalist Party Victory
1992 114,911 46.50% 31 Nationalist Party Victory
1996 132,497 50.72% 31+4 Malta Labour Party Victory
1998 124,220 46.97% 30 Nationalist Party Victory
2003 134,092 47.51% 30 Nationalist Party Victory
2008 141,888 48.79% 34 Nationalist Party Victory

(Source: [1])

The first election under universal suffrage in which all women aged over 21 could vote.

The 1981 election produced a perverse result, as the Opposition Nationalist Party had more votes than the ruling Malta Labour Party.

Elections to the European Parliament

Year Votes % Seats Outcome
2004 118,983 48.4% 3 Malta Labour Party Victory
2009 135,917 54.77% 3+1 Labour Party Victory

(Source: [2])

The Labour party took Malta's additional 6th seat when the Treaty of Lisbon came into effect.

Party leadership

Leaders of the Labour Party

See List of Malta Labour Party leaders

Deputy leaders of the Labour Party in the Maltese House of Representatives since 1920

Deputy leaders of the Labour Party Affairs since 1976

See also


External links

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