16 Jul 2012 Loyalty to constitution and to the party
Since political parties in Malta remain to date the most unregulated bodies at law, one could get the wrong impression they are above the law. Obviously in countries upholding the rule of law no one is above the law. since unfortunately our country has been through much undesirable political polarisation, to some it might appear that party loyalty is the alpha and omega of our political system, which obvioulsy it is not.
Matters are further compounded and complicated by the fact that most people are very unfamiliar with the basic constitutional notions animating our system even though unfortunately politics seesm to be a national pastime.
In totalitarian states political parties are supreme. But not so in democracies. Political parties operate within a constitutional structure, and they are means to an end, not ends in themselves.
The secretary general or treasurer of a political party, for example are party delegates. Their sole loyalty is towards their party. However elected members of parliament are not party delegates, they are representatives of the people elected on a party ticket. They have dual allegiance, to the Constitution and the People and also to the political party on whose ticket they were elected.
When a government backbencher, for example is faced with a polluting project in his constituency he is duty bound to voice his constituents’ concerns, and he would be abdicating his responsibilities if he does otherwise. This is the fundamental principle of representation.
Party loyalty is important but should not be abused.
For example party loyalty should not be abused by ministers who think they can ride roughshod over everyone, relying on blind support from the backbench. Party loyalty means that ministers who fail shoulder political responsibility and resign, refraining from embarrasing their colleagues, the party and government.
The people are sovereign and the constitution is supreme.
The Constitution is not the manual of party loyalty but is based on the principles of the rule of law, the separation of powers, the fundamental principle of representation and accountability amongst others.