Breakthrough reached on proposed constitutional reforms

Last-minute discussions between the government and the opposition on the proposed constitutional reforms appear to have achieved a breakthrough, with the government pledging to renounce a controversial anti-deadlock mechanism that has been at the heart of strong disagreements.

In light of these agreements, six bills were approved in their second reading or in committee without a vote at the end of Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting. The final vote on all the bills is set to take place on Wednesday, with a unanimous approval now expected.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis has presented 10 bills introducing constitutional and other reforms in line with recommendations made by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, though only six have been discussed in Parliament so far.

But the opposition had expressed its disagreement in all six cases, and the support of at least a proportion of opposition MPs is required for five which amend the Constitution.

New amendments to be presented tomorrow

But as PN MP Chris Said explained following a series of votes, informal discussions between the government and opposition continued in a bid to reach a compromise and allow the reforms to become law.

Zammit Lewis had himself explained, when a number of the bills were discussed in committee on Monday, that the disagreements were over details, and not in principle.

Ultimately, the government has agreed to table amendments to remove the controversial anti-deadlock mechanism which had been proposed for the appointment of various top posts, including the President, the Chief Justice and the Ombudsman.

In all cases, the proposal was to require a two-thirds parliamentary majority, but after two failed votes, an absolute majority of MPs would have sufficed. Said had noted that in the case of the Ombudsman, this would be a step back since a two-thirds vote is required in any case.