Nationalist Party (Malta)

Nationalist Party
Partit Nazzjonalista
Abbreviation PN
President Simon Busuttil
Founder Fortunato Mizzi
Founded 1880 (1880)
Headquarters Id-Dar Ċentrali
Triq Herbert Ganado
Newspaper In-Nazzjon
Youth wing Nationalist Party Youth Movement
Ideology Christian democracy[1]
Liberal conservatism
Political position Centre-right
European affiliation European People's Party
International affiliation International Democrat Union,
Centrist Democrat International
European Parliament group European People's Party
Colours      Blue
31 / 71
European Parliament
3 / 6
Local Council Seats
210 / 455

The Nationalist Party (Maltese: Partit Nazzjonalista, PN) is a Christian democratic[1][2] and conservative[1] political party in Malta. It is one of two major contemporary political parties in Malta, along with the governing Labour Party. It is the successor to the Anti-Reform Party founded by Fortunato Mizzi in 1883, opposing taxation decreed by the British colonial authorities and measures to Anglicise the educational and the judicial systems during the Language Question. The presence of Italian refugees from the Risorgimento gave the party a liberal constitutionalist character in the Party's early days and a pro-Italian stance which lasted until the Second World War.

Party structure

The Party structures are the General, Executive and Administrative Councils, the Parliamentary Group, the District Fora and Sectional Committees, the College of Local Councillors and a number of Party branches.[3]

Party officials include the Leader, Deputy Leader, Secretary-General, Presidents of the Party's three councils, Treasurer, International Secretary, Secretary of the Parliamentary Group, Deputy Secretary-General and President of the College of Local Councillors.

The General Council is made up of delegates and representatives from the other Party structure, the largest number being delegates elected by the Sectional Committees. The General Council elects and approves the Party Leader and Deputy Leader, approves the electoral programme, approves the Secretary-General's report on the state of the Party and amends the Party Statute. The Executive Council is made up of the Party's highest officials, representatives of the General Council, Parliamentary Groups, Sectional Committees and the Party branches and MEPs. The Executive Committee is the political and policy making body of the Party and, amongst other things, elects most of the Party officials, approves candidates, drafts the electoral programme and lays out the broad policy guidelines. The Administrative Council is made up of Party officials and deals with Party organisation.

The Party is organised geographically in Sectional Committees which are then organised in District Fora with special provisions applying for Party organisation in Gozo. The Parliamentary Group and the College of Local Councillors bring together the Party's elected representatives in parliament and local councils. The Party's branches include youth, women's, seniors', workers' and entrapreneurs' sections.

Media holdings

Although not directly part of the Party's structure, the Party owns the television station NET Television, radio service Radio 101, and the In-Nazzjon and Il-Mument newspapers through its holding company Communications.[4]


Foundation and early years (1880–1918)

The Nationalist Party's roots lie in the important language question of the late 19th century, when the British colonial government tried to give the English language the importance Italian had held in schools, administration, and law courts. Fortunato Mizzi, who was a lawyer at the time, strongly opposed these reforms, and in 1880, he set up the "Partito Anti-Riformista" (Anti-Reform Party). He and his followers also wanted a better constitution for the island, as the one imposed at the time had been granted by governor Richard Moor O'Ferrall in 1849, and gave the Maltese little power. This was because the governor was to appoint more members to the council of government than there were to be elected by the voters.

Against the Anti-Reform Party stood the Reform Party, founded by Sigismondo Savona in 1879. The Reform Party was in favour of the language reforms being imposed.

In 1886, Fortunato Mizzi, together with Gerald Strickland (another anti-reformist at the time), went to London to demand a new constitution for the islands, which would give them representative government. This constitution was granted in 1887 (known as the Knutsford Constitution), and added more elected members to the council of government that official (appointed) members.

During the next few years, the party was divided between abstentionists and anti-abstentionists. The abstentionists would immediately resign their post in the Council of Government immediately upon election as a protest against the token representation of the electorate on the Council; the anti-abstentionists favoured co-operation with the colonial authorities in order to work for a better constitution.

This practice of abstentionism led to the 1887 constitution being withdrawn, and in 1903, a new one was given instead, similar to that of 1887.

Interwar period (1918–39)

Following the First World War a broader and more moderate coalition, the Maltese Political Union (UPM), was formed but a more radical and pro-Italian group, the Democratic Nationalist Party (PDN), split from the main party. The two groups contested the first legislative elections of 1921 but in separate constituencies so as not to damage each other's chances. However, after elections the UPM, which emerged as the largest Party in the Legislative Assembly, chose Labour as its coalition partner.

The parties again contested the 1924 elections separately although this time they did form a coalition, eventually merging in 1926 under the old name of Nationalist Party. It lost its first elections as a re-unified Party in 1927 to the "Compact", an electoral alliance between the Constitutional Party and Labour.

A constitutional crisis, resulting from a dispute between the Church and the Constitutional Party, meant that elections were suspended in 1930. They were held again in 1932 when the Nationalists emerged victorious (21 seats out of 32). However, the Nationalists did not last long in government. The colonial authorities, concerned at the rise of fascist Italy in the Mediterranean and Africa, suspended the government and the constitution on the pretext that government's measures to strengthen instruction of Italian in schools violated the Constitution.

The Second World War and postwar period (1939–64)

The Nationalists received what could have been their coup de grâce during the War. Their association with Italy, the wartime enemy, antagonised them with the electorate and their leader, Enrico Mizzi (son of Fortunato) was first interned and then exiled to Uganda during the War along with other supporters of the Party. The Party did not even contest the 1945 elections for the Council of Government which for the first time raised the Labour Party from third-party status to that of a major party at the expense of the Constitutionals.

Notwithstanding, the Nationalist Party survived and in its first major electoral test, the legislative elections of 1947, it managed to stay ahead of various splinters that had formed from people who did not want to be associated with the main party. In the following 1950 elections, a very damaging split occurred in the ranks of the governing Labour Party resulting in two parties: the Malta Labour Party (MLP) and the Malta Workers' Party (MWP). This helped the Nationalists become the largest party in the Legislative Assembly and form a minority government which, though short-lived, re-established the Nationalist Party as a major political party. Enrico Mizzi was sworn in as Prime Minister, but died after three months in December.

Two subsequent elections were held in 1951 and 1953 where the Nationalists formed short-lived coalitions with the Malta Workers Party (which, over the years, eventually disintegrated). The Party lost the 1955 elections to Labour and the following years it led the campaign against the Labour Government's proposal for Integration with Britain. Integration failed largely because Britain lost interest after the Suez fiasco and the constitution was again revoked in 1958 following massive disturbances over redundancies at the Malta Drydocks.

Post independence (1964–today)

A new constitution was enacted in 1961. The Nationalists, led by George Borg Olivier won the 1962 elections, fought largely over the issue of independence and having as a backdrop a second politico-religious crisis this time between the Church and the Labour Party. Independence was achieved in 1964 and the Party was returned to office in elections in 1966. It lost the 1971 elections by a narrow margin and lost again in 1976.

In the elections of 1981 the party, now led by Eddie Fenech Adami achieved an absolute majority of votes for the first time since 1933 but it did not gain a parliamentary majority and so remained in the opposition. A crisis followed with the party MPs refusing to take their seats. Amendments to the constitution in 1987 meant that the party was voted into office that same year.

In 1990 the government formally applied to join the European Community. A wide-ranging programme of liberalisation and public investments meant the return to office with a larger majority in 1992. However, the party was defeated in the 1996 elections. The stint in opposition would last only 22 months as the government soon lost its one-seat majority. The party won the 1998 elections convincingly, a feat that was repeated in 2003 following the conclusions of accession negotiations with the European Union in 2002. Malta joined the European Union in 2004. The Nationalist Party won narrowly the general election of 2008. It lost the 2013 election and is now in opposition.

Since Independence in 1964, the Nationalist Party has won the absolute majority of votes cast in five out of ten general elections, in 1981 (despite which they did not obtain a parliamentary majority), 1987, 1992, 1998 and 2003. In 1966[5] and 2008 it won with a relative majority.


After the most recent Nationalist government, led by Lawrence Gonzi, lost its majority in parliament in the final year of the legislature, the same government fell when the budget vote (also a vote of confidence) was defeated, thus meaning it was the first Nationalist government since Independence to fall from power.

It is a member of the European People's Party (EPP) and it returned its two incumbent MEPs, Roberta Metsola and David Casa, in the European Parliament election held in June 2009. Casa and Busuttil sit with the EPP Group.

During the first years of the 21st century, the Nationalist Party embarked on a project to rebuild its headquarters in Pietà. This project was realized on 21 June 2008, when it was inaugurated by Lawrence Gonzi.

After approximately 15 years in power the Nationalist Party took a landslide defeat in the Maltese general elections of 2013 losing several Nationalist-leaning districts and resulting in a nine-seat deficit between it and the Labour Party, which is now in power.

On 17 April 2014, the Nationalist Party abstained from the civil unions bill, because while it was ready to legalize Civil Unions, it was not ready to do so for Same-Sex adoptions (which the government presented as one bill).[6]

The Nationalist Party again suffered a loss in the European Parliament election of 2014 against the governing Labour Party by over 34,000 votes,[7] but managed to elect its third MEP for the first time since Malta's entrance in the EU, making its current MEP's Roberta Metsola, David Casa and Therese Comodini Cachia.[8]

In the 2015 local council elections, the Nationalist Party increased its vote percentage from 41% in 2012 to 45%.

The party is led by Simon Busuttil, who was elected Leader on 4 May 2013.


Electoral performance

General elections

This chart shows the electoral performance of the Nationalist Party since 1921.

Election Votes Vote % Seats Outcome of election
1921 2,465 12.0%
4 / 32
Maltese Political Union victory
1924 4,188 17.4%
5 / 32
Maltese Political Union - Nationalist Party victory
1927 14,321 41.5%
13 / 32
Constitutional Party - Labour Party victory
1932 28,777 59.6%
21 / 32
Nationalist Party victory
1939 11,618 33.1%
3 / 10
Constitutional Party victory
1945 0 0.0%
0 / 10
Labour Party victory
1947 19,041 18.0%
7 / 40
Labour Party victory
1950 31,431 29.6%
12 / 40
Nationalist Party victory
1951 39,946 35.5%
15 / 40
Nationalist Party - Malta Workers Party victory
1953 45,180 38.1%
18 / 40
Nationalist Party - Malta Workers Party victory
1955 48,514 40.2%
17 / 40
Malta Labour Party victory
1962 63,262 42.0%
25 / 50
Nationalist Party victory
1966 68,656 47.9%
28 / 50
Nationalist Party victory
1971 80,753 48.1%
27 / 55
Malta Labour Party victory
1976 99,551 48.5%
31 / 65
Malta Labour Party victory
1981 109,990 49.1%
34 / 65
Malta Labour Party victory
1987 119,721 50.9%
35 / 69
Nationalist Party victory
1992 127,932 51.8%
34 / 65
Nationalist Party victory
1996 124,864 47.8%
34 / 69
Malta Labour Party victory
1998 137,037 51.8%
35 / 65
Nationalist Party victory
2003 146,172 51.8%
35 / 65
Nationalist Party victory
2008 143,468 49.3%
35 / 69
Nationalist Party victory
2013 132,426 43.3%
30 / 69
Labour Party victory

Elections to the European Parliament

Year Votes % Seats Outcome
2004 97,688 39.76%
2 / 5
Malta Labour Party victory
2009 100,483 40.49%
2 / 6
Malta Labour Party victory
2014 100,785 40.2%
3 / 6
Labour Party victory (votes), tie (seats)


  1. 1 2 3 4 Wolfram Nordsieck. "Parties and Elections in Europe". Retrieved 9 June 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. pp. 683–. ISBN 978-0-313-39182-8. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  3. "Partit Nazzjonalista" (PDF). Partit Nazzjonalista. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  4. Sammut, Carmen (2007). Media and Maltese Society. Lexington Books. p. 56. ISBN 9780739115268. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  6. "We had no choice but to abstain – Busuttil". Times of Malta. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  7. "Labour supporters celebrate big election victory - Majority exceeds 33,000 votes, 54% - Muscat says outcome better than expected". Times of Malta. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  8. "Updated - Comodini Cachia snatches third seat for the PN in historic vote for women". Times of Malta. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
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