Labour Party (Malta)

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The Labour Party (Maltese: Partit Laburista) is a Maltese political party. It is the main party of opposition in Malta, and at the 2003 general elections obtained 30 of the 65 seats in the Maltese House of Representatives, with a 47.5% share of the vote.

The Malta Labour Party was founded in 1920. Until the Second World War the Malta Labour Party was the third political force in Malta and was represnted in government only once in 1922 and for a very short period of time. It obtained it first electoral victory in 1947 and became the strongest political group in Malta. The MLP won twenty-four seats out of a total of forty. The workers had been projected by the war as the mainstay of the economy and the Labour way of thinking was that since the workers produced the wealth then they should be the ones with the strongest political clout. This was a new logic in a community like that of Malta which was steadfastly traditional and where for centuries some groups had been born to govern while others were expected to obey. The MLP was greatly helped in its struggle for the minds and hearts of the Maltese workers by the emergence of the General Workers Union. It was then under the leadership of Mr Miller, a Maltese dockyard employee whose had settled in Malta from Maidenhead England. The collaboration between the MLP and the GWU was to produce a new dynamic force in modern Maltese politics.

The new Labour Government had Dr Paul Boffa as Prime Minister. Dr Boffa led a solid team intent introducing sorely needed social legislation, including old age pensions. Also on the team was a young architect, Mr D. Mintoff, who was given the task to oversee public works and speed up construction. Mintoff's ministry was responsible for providing houses for those who had lost theirs during the war. His dynamism attracted the loyalty of most workers and it was through their support that he eventually took over the leadership of the party in 1949 and made himself Malta's foremost politician for many years.

The MLP was again elected to government in 1955. This legislature was dominated by the Integration with Britain issue. A referendum was held in but given the number of abstensions and massive opposition by the PN 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.

The Governor re-established direct colonial government which lasted until 1962. In the meantime the MLP's connection with Third World Independentist and Socialist movements, together with its targetting the Church as pro-British and the cause of failure of the Integration project led to the Party leadership being interdicted by the Catholic Church authorities. This led to a minor split (and the creation of the Christian Workers' Party, which lasted only until 1966) and the defeat of the Party at the polls.

The Party participated in independence talks but disagreed with what was offered. It did not participate in the Independence celebrations in 1964. The Party made strong gains in the 1966 elections which, however, were not enough to see it in office. The Party was victorious in 1971 and immediately set out to re-negotiate the post-Independence militaryand financial agreements with Britain. The Party also undertook massive nationalisation programmes and expansion of the welfare state. Malta became a republic in 1974. And the MLP won 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 ballots. A serious political crisis ensued when Nationalists MPs refused to take their seats for the first years of the legislature. Mintoff resigned as Prime Minister and Party leader in 1984 (although he retained his parliamentary seat) making way for his appointee Dr Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.

The Party agreed to constitutional amendments in 1987 which guaranteed that the party with a majority of vote was given a majority of seats. Thanks to the amendment the Nationalists returned to Government after 16 years. The MLP performed badly in 1992 and Mifsud Bonnici resigned. He was succeeded by Dr Alfred Sant who modernised the party and secured a victory at the polls in 1996.

However, trouble was brewing. Mr Mintoff started creating problems in Parliament where the government had only a 1-seat majority. Things came to a head in summer of 1998 when the government lost a vote on the lease of the Cottonera waterfront. Sant called early elections and was defeated. Back in opposition, the Party campaigned unsuccessfully against EU membership, losing again in 2003. Sant resigned but stood again for election where he was voted again as leader with more than 65% of the vote.

The Party has currently 30 MPs (out of 65) and 3 MEPs (out of 5). The Party won the local council election of 2004 and 2005. The party is currently claiming that is expected to win the next election. It obtained 3 of Malta's 5 seats in the 2004 European Parliament elections. In the European Parliament the Malta Labor Party's representatives belong to the Party of European Socialists. The Labor Party owns Super One TV, and Super One Radio.

Recently (2005) a new party has emerged out of the Malta Labour Party - bearing the same abbreviated name - MLP - with the name MOVIMENT LABURISTA POPOLARI.

Past and current leaders

External links

fr:Parti travailliste (Malte)

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