Labour Party (Malta)

Labour Party
Partit Laburista
Abbreviation PL
Leader Joseph Muscat
President Daniel Micallef
Founder William Savona
Founded 15 October 1920 (1920-10-15)
Headquarters Mile End Street, Ħamrun
Newspaper Kullħadd
Youth wing Labour Youth Forum
Ideology Social democracy[1]
Political position Centre-left
European affiliation Party of European Socialists
European Parliament group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
Colours      Red
38 / 71
European Parliament
3 / 6
Local Council Seats
245 / 455
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The Labour Party (Maltese: Partit Laburista, PL) is a social-democratic[1][2] political party in Malta. Along with the Nationalist Party (PN), the Labour Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in Malta. It is the governing party in the Maltese House of Representatives following its victory over the Nationalist Party in the March 2013 general election.[3]

The Labour Party is a member of the Party of European Socialists,[4] and was a member of the Socialist International until December 2014.[5]

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.[6]

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.

Media holdings

Although not formally part of the Party's structures, the PL owns a number of media and communication outlets. The party directly owns the Sunday weekly newspaper Kullħadd and the online newspaper; and through its holding company One Productions the party owns the television station One, radio service One Radio, DAB+ radio service KISS, and mobile virtual network operator Redtouch Fone.[7]


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.[8]

The original Labour emblem 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)

Emblem of the MLP adopted in 1949 on a flag. The emblem was changed in 2008 but it is still commonly seen at Labour meetings and events.

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.

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 being pro-British and the cause of the 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 socialist-style nationalization programmes, import substitution schemes, and the expansion of the public sector and the welfare state. Employment laws were revised with gender equality being introduced in salary pay. In the case of civil law, civil (non-religious) marriage was introduced and homosexuality and adultery were decriminalised. Through a package of constitutional reforms agreed to with the opposition party, Malta became a republic in 1974.

The Labour 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 Dom Mintoff called this action "perverse" but it was not an uncommon one in any parliamentary democracy with disputed election results. He proposed to his parliamentary group that fresh elections be held, but most members of his Parliamentary group rejected his proposal. Mintoff, who had been considering vacating the party leadership position even before the elections, 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 Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici who acted uncontested as party leader.

The post-Mintoff era (1984–92)

The club of the Malta Labour Party in Republic Street, Valletta in 1985.

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 26 March Labour elected Alfred Sant as the new leader.

Sant leadership and Modernisation (1992-2008)

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 26 October by over 8,000 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. 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 to 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, which were held on 5 September 1998. 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 8 March (although Sant claimed victory) and was again defeated in the general election a month on, on 14 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.[9] 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[10] 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.

During Muscat Leadership (post-2008)

The new flag of the Labour Party.
Labourites celebrate after the 2013 election.

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 6 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 1 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. The previous emblem was changed although the symbol of the torch was retained.

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. This result led to Labour a fourth MEP when the Treaty of Lisbon came into effect and the number of seats allocated to Malta increased from five to six.

Muscat managed to win comfortably the 2013 elections held on 9 March by over 35,000 votes on the Nationalist Party. The Labour Party won a massive 55% of the votes.

In the 2014 MEP elections, the Labour Party retained a majority of 34,000 votes (53%), but lost its fourth seat to the Nationalist Party (Malta) candidate Therese Comodini Cachia.

Electoral performance

General Elections

Date Votes Seats Position Size
# % ± pp # ±
1921 4,037 19.7% + 19.7
7 / 32
Increase 4 Opposition 3rd
1924 4,632 19.2% - 0.5
7 / 32
Steady 0 Opposition 3rd
1927 5,011 14.6% - 4.6
3 / 32
Decrease 4 Coalition 3rd
1932 4,138 8.6% - 6.6
1 / 32
Decrease 2 Opposition 3rd
1939 3,100 8.8% + 0.2
1 / 10
Steady 0 Opposition 3rd
1945* 19,071 76.2% + 67.4
9 / 10
Increase 8 Government 1st
1947 63,145 59.9% - 16.3
23 / 40
Increase 15 Government 1st
1950 30,332 28.6% - 16.3
11 / 40
Decrease 12 Opposition 2nd
1951 40,208 35.7% + 7.1
14 / 40
Increase 3 Opposition 1st
1953 52,771 44.6% + 8.9
19 / 40
Increase 5 Opposition 1st
1955 68,447 56.7% + 12.1
23 / 40
Increase 4 Government 1st
1962 50,974 33.9% - 22.8
16 / 50
Decrease 7 Opposition 2nd
1966 61,774 43.1% + 9.2
22 / 50
Increase 6 Opposition 2nd
1971 85,448 50.8% + 7.7
28 / 55
Increase 6 Government 1st
1976 105,854 51.5% + 0.7
34 / 65
Increase 6 Government 1st
1981 109,990 49.1% - 2.4
34 / 65
Steady 0 Government 2nd
1987 114,936 48.9% - 0.2
34 / 65
Steady 0 Opposition 2nd
1992 114,911 46.5% - 2.4
31 / 65
Decrease 3 Opposition 2nd
1996 132,496 50.7% + 4.2
35 / 69
Increase 4 Government 1st
1998 124,220 47.0% - 3.7
30 / 65
Decrease 5 Opposition 2nd
2003 134,092 47.5% + 0.5
30 / 65
Steady 0 Opposition 2nd
2008 141,888 48.8% + 1.3
34 / 69
Increase 4 Opposition 2nd
2013 167,533 54.8% + 6.0
39 / 69
Increase 5 Government 1st

(Source: )

*The Labour Party was the only party contesting the 1945 election.

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 / 5
Malta Labour Party Victory
2009 135,917 54.77%
4 / 6
Malta Labour Party Victory
2014 134,462 53.3%
3 / 6
Labour Party Victory

(Source: )

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


  1. 1 2 Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe". Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  2. Hans Slomp (30 September 2011). Europe, A Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics: An American Companion to European Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 683. ISBN 978-0-313-39182-8. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  3. INDEPENDENT online
  4. "Your party". Party of European Socialists. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  5. "Labour officially delisted from Socialist International". Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  6. Chapter IV of the Party Statute
  7. Sammut, Carmen (2007). Media and Maltese Society. Lexington Books. p. 56. ISBN 9780739115268. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  9. "European Parliament Elections 2004".
  10. "General election 2008: Votes Polled during First Count by Party". Department of Information, Malta. 10 March 2008.
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