This week, voters in the tiny European country of Malta go to the polls in the first Maltese election in which LGBT rights have featured prominently.
Traditionally a conservative and largely Catholic country, Malta has seemingly experienced a shift toward greater social liberalism with increasing support for same-sex marriage and the long-overdue legalization of divorce in recent years.
The Malta Gay Rights Movement and We Are, the LGBT society for Maltese university students, have kept up pressure on Malta’s two leading parties, the leftist Partit Laburista (Labour Party) and the Christian-democratic Partit Nazzjonalista (Nationalist Party). Malta’s third party, Alternattiva Demokratika (Democratic Alternative, popularly referred to as The Greens), has a strong record on gay rights but, polling at 2%, is unlikely to enter parliament.
According to the MGRM, only the AD and PL replied to the organization’s request for clarification on gay rights issues in Malta. While Labour is generally supportive of civil unions, it opposes marriage equality “for this next legislative period.” Labour is tipped to end a quarter-century of Nationalist dominance under its youthful leader, Joseph Muscat. In 2012, Labour officially recognized Pride Day for the first time, flying rainbow flags over its party offices and clubs.
Meanwhile, Alternattiva Demokratika’s positions “remain the most similar to those of MGRM.” Despite its traditional lack of support – the party has never elected a Member of Parliament – the AD has received praise from editorialists for its “progressive stances like gay marriage…which are in line with foreword looking global policy thinking.”
The Maltese election takes place on March 9.