• Corrine Zahra

Malta's Political History & A Timeline Of Events: From 1800 To 2003

On 8th March 2003, 54.65% of Malta's population voted to join the European Union.

Read on to learn a little more about today’s historical event, and how it all came to be


Malta's Protest Culture

Historically, one of Malta’s biggest protests was the Sette Giugno riots.

After WW1, tensions between the Maltese
& the British were rising. On 7th June 1919,
the Maltese population took to the streets of Valletta to protest. British troops then fired into the crowd, killing 4 & injuring around 50.

Protest culture in Malta seemed to die down for a while after that. Roughly 100 years later, massive protests broke out concerning the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Crowds swarmed around Parliament, with police setting up barriers for safety.


A Brief Introduction

Maltese constitutional development has had
 a rather turbulent history

Under the Order of St John, from 1530 to 1798, democracy was unknown even as an inspiration. The French period was then short-lived, from 1798 to 1800, & was marked by the French surrender. 

With the approval of the King of the Two Sicilies, which was still recognised as the island’s sovereign, the British then became Malta’s rulers after the French paving the path for what eventually became the known as the Republic of Malta… & the beginning of Malta’s road to democracy.


The 1813 & 1835 Constitution

In 1813, Sir Thomas Maitland became Malta’s first British governor. Having total power, he set up an Advisory Council to help him administer the Maltese Islands. The council was made up of 7 members (4 British & 3 Maltese).

The early 1830s were then rocked with protests all over Europe for democratic change. In 1835, the British granted Malta a new constitution after a group of locals sent petitions to the Colonial Office in London.

Despite the council of government still consisting of 4 British & 3 Maltese, the Governor now couldn’t act without the consultation of 
the majority.


The First Political Parties

Briefly there were 2 parties; the Reform Party founded by Sigismondo Savona & the Anti-Reform Party founded by Fortunato Mizzi.

Reform meant change: a change from the bourgeoisie, one which stood to benefit the people. Anti-reformism meant resistance, a resistance to opportunism & change.

The 2 rival parties eventually led to the 
‘language question’; a fight between Italian 
socialites & middle class Maltese. This subsided after World War II, with the 2 parties remaining secure in their philosophy albeit changing with times. The Anti-Reform party became the Nationalist Party & the Reform party become Malta Labour Party.


The Sette Giugno Protests

Malta was granted self-determination as a reaction to the 1919 Sette Giugno protests. The government at that point in time became split into a diarchy i.e. split into 2 governments.

The Imperial Government was made up of 6 nominated officials who decided reserved matters, whereas the Maltese Government was bicameral (two houses).

Malta was then officially granted a Prime Minister in 1921 after the Labour Party won their 1st election, with Sir Joseph Howard holding the position between 1921 & 1923 in the peak of the language question.


Malta & WW2

In 1933, the constitution was revoked again after strong tensions & fear that Italian fascism was entering Maltese politics.

When WWII hit, Malta once again became a crown colony. A constitution was restored in 1947 which was similar to the 1921. The Senate was abolished with only the Maltese government 
in charge.

The political society changed in Malta & 2 main figures rose: Paul Boffa & Dominic Mintoff. 

The Labour Party ended up splitting up over clashes between the two - with Mintoff getting the upper hand.


The Run-Up To Malta's Independence

The aftermath of Mintoff’s Integration Referendum resulted in the Nationalist Party winning the following election in 1962.

This led the Maltese Government to discuss independence. England was open to discussing the matter since Malta’s strategic position was no longer of use. Ġorġ Borg Olivier managed to secure Malta a financial aid package deal as well as a place in the Commonwealth.

Meanwhile, Mintoff decided to take sides with Arab countries, which reflected badly on Maltese politics due to the world’s socio-political situation of time i.e. Cold War.


The Rest Is History

In 1974, changes were made to the Constitution in which Malta became a Republic & the Queen of England was no longer Malta’s head of state. Malta’s first president was Sir Anthony Mamo.

In 1972, Malta signed an agreement with the British military. It expired a year later, & Mintoff had no intention to renew it.

Instead, Malta broke all ties with NATO & England. This resulted in a cordial agreement for the British fleet to leave Malta in 1979.

This also meant that Malta became a neutral state. In 2003, a referendum took place for Malta to join the European Union. 53.6% voted in favour while 46.4% voted against.

Did You Know About Malta's Political History?