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GSD highlights plans for parliamentary reform

Damon Bossino and Keith Azopardi. Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

GSD leader Keith Azopardi and candidate Damon Bossino discussed their proposals for parliamentary reform within the next four years, if the party is elected into government later this week.

With Gibraltar voting on Thursday, the GSD detailed constitutional changes they have promised to make, with a focus on reducing the number of government ministers and at the same time enlarging Parliament.

The proposed reforms, detailed in their manifesto, come against the backdrop of years on the Opposition bench, with Mr Azopardi stating that “parliament doesn't really work properly”.

Mr Azopardi described how the incumbent governments in parliament hold an inbuilt majority.

“You don't see that in any other parliament in the world,” he told journalists at the GSD headquarters in College Lane.

“In any other parliament you'd have a government, the executive, the ministers who are in an effective minority in the parliament.”

“The party in government would be in a majority, but not the ministers themselves.”

He added that parliament can never hold the executive to account if the executive has a majority in parliament.

“It just doesn't work like that,” he said.

Mr Azopardi highlighted he would ensure more accountability from ministers and if elected would introduce monthly press conferences where the media could put their questions to the Chief Minister.

He added that if elected he has promised to stand for a maximum of two terms and change the constitution to ensure that in future any elected Chief Ministers can only serve for eight years.

Mr Azopardi said the GSD plans to govern with 10 if all their candidates are elected, but their eventual policy would be to govern with eight ministers to ensure the enlargement of parliament is cost neutral.

In this scenario if one of the ministers were to drop out a backbencher would become a minister.

Also ministers would not be above accountability, Mr Azopardi said, with the chance a minister who is not performing well being demoted to the backbench.

“Ministers are not above accountability and performance and tough decisions need to be taken,” he said.

“Of course it would be tough if you’ve got to say to someone, well, you know what, I think you're going to go to the back benches and someone's going to take your place.”

“But ultimately I think that's the tough decisions that you would need to take if you want to regenerate the government.”

Mr Azopardi said parliamentary reform by 2027 is a realistic timescale, but he does not have a fixed policy on electoral reform.

“In other words, and really what we're talking about is, do we keep the first past the post system for all the seats, or do we, for example, have a mixed system where it's first past the post for a number of seats, but then you've got proportional representation for the others?”

“You could have that, which is a sort of Scottish/Welsh system that they've had in devolved assemblies, or do you just change the system more radically? So we would consult on those options.”

Mr Bossino added that the GSD would move to introduce more select committees to scrutinise ministers.

“We feel that parallel to our reforms, what we would want to see is more select committees,” Mr Bossino said.

“So there is even more scrutiny of legislation and of ministers’ activities and responsibilities.”

“We don't think there is enough of that and really we have come to the conclusion that the best way of securing that, the best way of achieving that, is to have an enlarged House.”

Mr Bossino said the gender imbalance in parliament also needs to be addressed, adding that the GSD would seek to create a more family-friendly parliament for both men and women.

Mr Azopardi recognised the campaign has been “pretty ugly” so far and potentially “off putting to people” wanting to join politics.

He said, if elected, his government would try to encourage young people to join politics and even set up a youth parliament.

“My personal message to those people who have watched this campaign is, please, please don't be put off,” Mr Bossino said.

“I think it's important that people do engage. I think it's important that people do participate in politics. Everybody has a contribution to make.”

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