Lessons of democracy from Brazil

Brazil's "popular action" allows any citizen to take a legitimate part in a proposed appeal against any (administrative) act prejudicial to public interests, or that of an agency in which the State is a partner; or to administrative morality; the environment; and the historical and cultural heritage. The author of the act--unless shown to have acted in bad faith--is exempted from the payment of judicial costs.

Malta has a similar provision in Article 116 of the Constitution although it certainly does not go as far as the Brazilian provision for it only gives individuals the right to make an action against the State for passing invalid, unconstitutional laws. It certainly does not mention 'administrative morality, the environment and historical and cultural heritage'. The Maltese 'popular action' also states that individuals do not need to show any personal/judicial interest to bring such an action. However our Courts have stubbornly dismissed many cases on the grounds that the claimants showed no personal interest in the matter and this despite the wording of the law.

The popular action is a great democratic tool for it empowers citizens themselves to 'check and balance' State institutions when they fall astray. In Malta it is all the more necessary in times of severe maladministration especially with regards to the environment and development.

Before reforming MEPA perhaps we should take a lesson from Brazil whose level of democratic participation and administrative accountability seems to surpass that of Malta.

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