MaltaEncyclopædia Britannica Article
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Government and social conditions > Government
The 1964 Independence Constitution, under which Malta was a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary state, was amended in 1974 to make Malta a republic within the Commonwealth. Its head of state is a president appointed by the Maltese Parliament, which is elected by universal adult suffrage for a term of five years and is basically derived from the British model. Local features include a single chamber with 69 members, while election is by proportional representation from 13 electoral divisions. An amendment adopted in 1987 guarantees a majority of seats to a party receiving more than 50 percent of the total votes in the general election. The two major parties are the Nationalist Party and the Malta Labour Party. The president acts on the advice of the Cabinet, which consists of the prime minister and other ministers (some assisted by parliamentary secretaries) and is collectively responsible to Parliament. There is no municipal government in the islands.
Maltese law, which was codified mainly during the period from 1854 to 1873, is largely based on the Napoleonic Code and Napoleonic law. Procedural common law and some commercial and maritime affairs are regulated by English principles, but judiciary precedent is not binding. Maltese is the language of the courts. Civil and criminal jurisdiction is almost exclusively vested in the Superior Court and the Court of Magistrates. The chief justice and judges of the Superior Court are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister, and their duties are apportioned throughout the court system. The magistrates, who are appointed in the same way, sit in the lower courts.
Between 1964 and 1972, Malta's main defense dispositions were those contained in a 1964 Anglo-Maltese defense agreement, with the United Kingdom guaranteeing mutual assistance. Since then, through a constitutional amendment, Malta has followed a policy of neutrality and nonalignment and maintains its own regular armed forces.