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I. Operation of Parliament under Emergency Measures

A period of public emergency is deemed to occur in Malta if it is engaged in any war; if the President has issued a proclamation that a state of public emergency exists; or if the House of Representatives has issued a resolution, with a two thirds majority of the House, “declaring that the democratic institutions of Malta are threatened by subversion.”[1] Proclamations by the House of Representatives may last for an initial period of up to 14 days, but may be renewed for a maximum period of 12 months.[2] There does not appear to be any legislation that indicates how a declaration of public emergency impacts the work of the House of Representatives other than that the President must summon it to meet within five days if he or she issues a proclamation of a state of public emergency and Parliament is prorogued or adjourned. Instead, the legislation appears primarily to enable action to be taken to ensure the supply of products and restrict the rights of the population.[3] If “great disorder” arises in the House, the Speaker has the ability to “adjourn the House without question put or suspend any sitting for a time to be named by him.”[4]

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II. Arrangements for an “Emergency Parliament”

There does not appear to be any legislation, orders, or publicly published information that designates a subgroup of parliamentarians to form an emergency parliament with devolved powers from the whole parliament to address crisis situations. The House of Representatives may continue to sit and vote on issues if the minimum quorum of 15 is met.[5]

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III. Current Arrangements for the Legislature to Work during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Speaker of the House issued regulations on March 12, 2020, designed to contain the spread of COVID-19 within the House of Representatives. The regulations:

  • restrict public access to plenary and committee sessions of the House of Representatives;
  • suspend the issuance of one time passes for individuals entering the parliamentary premises, with the limited exception of members of the media and participants in the work of plenary sessions and committees;
  • cancel overseas travel for official business for members of parliament and their staff;
  • suspend scheduled events on parliamentary premises (other than parliamentary sittings); and
  • implement additional cleaning across parliamentary premises, including the supply of sanitizers and the disinfection of all high contact areas, such as computer keyboards, elevator buttons and door handles, every two to three hours.[6]

Newspapers have reported that the government whip has stated they are “considering suspending the quorum provision of the standing orders, so that only the MPs taking part in the debate would have to be present,”[7] but that suspending parliamentary sittings would not be appropriate as the country is yet to be in lockdown. [8]

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Prepared by Clare Feikert-Ahalt
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
March 2020

[1] Constitution of Malta, art. 47(2),

[2] Id. art. 47(4).

[3] Emergency Powers Act, cap. 178, art. 4,

[4] Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, S.L. Const. 02, Order 69,

[5] Constitution of Malta, art. 70(2).

[6] Press Release, Office of the Speaker, COVID 19 - Regulations Issued by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mar. 12, 2020, PR200463,

[7] Keith Micallef, Parliamentary Sittings to Continue as Planned - Government, Times of Malta (Mar. 16, 2020),

[8] Id. 

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020