Ram it down our throats

The reform itself also sends the wrong message: that society should be looking to the younger generation for direction, and not the elderly folk. Because at this point in time anyone against this view is herded with the 60+ voters, a colony of dinosaurs who have little or nothing to offer

I have yet to experience a debate that never was: the decision to award 16-year-olds with a vote. A decision supported by the two major parties, and one which I am completely against.

Those who support it argue about giving youngsters a voice as part of the grand design of things to make this country great. Those who want to ram this down our throats argue that they have a mandate to execute, that youngsters have their own minds and that this is progress in action.

All the politicians or pundits who support it tell me of the first time they advocated such a proposal. As if that in itself is a good enough reason to introduce it.

Joseph Muscat says he mentioned it in 2008 and David Agius, the deputy leader of the PN, also said that sometime in 2015 he proposed a vote for 16-year-olds. So bloody what?!

Most parents – and there is little doubt in my mind – are against such a measure. They know what their 16-year-olds stand for: their understanding of politics is limited to peer pressure and their immediate family. The more sombre parents avoid discussing politics.

Andrew Azzopardi on Xtra argued that it was not true that sons and daughters will replicate what their parents believed in, and as an example he cited the fact that he supported one football club and his son another.

Well, that could be true, but there is little doubt in my mind that nine out of 10 people will follow the voting pattern of their parents. Apart from the fact that politics is supposed to be somewhat different from a sport which engages 22 men running after a ball.

16-year-olds are usually (and this is to be expected) focused on three considerations: growing up, their studies, and of course sex. But not all fall in the same category. It is a time when parents have to deal with a divisive atmosphere, where their kids think they know better. They are not exactly a piece of cake in this phase of life. It ain’t always nice.

Needless to say there is also the fact that 16-year-olds have restrictions in the face of the law, on notarial deeds, consensual sex. and other considerations such as plonking a tattoo on one’s ankle, all of which do not seem to bother the political parties.

The proponents of the 16+ vote have conveniently forgotten the turmoil family members face when it comes to decide for whom to vote, apart from the ugly tribalism of being either with the two big parties or with any of the small parties.

In my opinion the longer youngsters stay out of politics and learn something about life, the better for all of us and for them.

The absolute majority of all 16-year-olds depend on their parents for literally everything. Some of them are still cocooned within an upbringing which, for good or for bad, is highly protective. Should we keep it that way? If I were given a choice I would advise them to run a mile from Maltese politicians. I will argue and fight till the end of time for my sixteen-year-olds not to engage with political parties, which are run by individuals who have no policies but only dreams of being in power and in government. I have been there and I know how much time I wasted.

When I interviewed Julia Farrugia on Xtra this week, she argued that the government had a mandate. But she knows like everyone else that the people who voted for Labour did not do so for the 16-year-old vote proposition. They did so for the economy and feel-good factor, they had not yet forgotten what the PN in government stood for, they did not believe the Egrant allegations, and they simply did not like Simon Busuttil and Marlene Farrugia.

Policies, I am afraid, did not really affect those decisions.

When I pushed Farrugia about the idea of a referendum she argued that in politics there was always a time for politicians to take the lead and make the necessary reforms.

Ok, granted, but this was a decision which if put to the public would be shot down across party lines. Because parents, unlike politicians, have much more sense.

Farrugia said there been consultation. But then again, I really must emphasise that many organisations and agencies are far from representative of the general public.

In many aspects Muscat is an amazing chess player. Many proposals that appear radical have been introduced because they can only win votes and not lose them. So, for example, the civil unions reform was introduced in spite of polls indicating that most people opposed it. Muscat knew that the reform would not lose him votes but those people directly benefitting from the reform would vote for his party while those opposing it would look the other way.

I guess the best example of Muscat’s political astuteness is illustrated in the hunting issue. If Muscat were to take more severe steps against hunting, he knows that he would lose the hunters’ vote but not gain the environmentalists’ vote. He knows that environmentalists are not one-issue voters, most are Nationalists, a few Green and fewer Labourites.

But the decision to simply bulldoze with the introduction of the 16-year-old vote smacks of a Talibanesque approach and the feeling I get is that any voice objecting to this kind of reform is considered to be some troglodyte. Troglodyte or not the truth is that reforms should not be carried out if there is opposition at ground level.

Muscat will argue that Malta will be the second country in the European Union to introduce such a measure. He will be doing so against the will of the majority of people who he knows did not vote him into power because of this clause.

Some days ago, when slapped with a Council of Europe report that chastised Malta for being one of the very few nations in the Western world not to have abortion, Muscat answered he did not have a mandate. Truth be said abortion is a sticky issue which has never been debated and many who dared raise a voice to discuss it have suffered the consequences. But neither did he have a mandate in 2013 for numerous measures, including the citizenship scheme.

I am sure that most parents would want their adolescent children to stay as far away as possible from the ugly world of politics

Politics is a game of chess with crooked rules. Politics is all about power, money and lies. Politics is about promises, fake policies and half-truths. Politics is about spin and more often than not, the aim of being re-elected at all costs.

I am sure that most parents would want their adolescent children to stay as far away as possible from the ugly world of politics. With the decision to drag youngsters into this arena with two major parties that have similar electoral manifestos and visions, many fear that the troubles they face as normal families will only be exacerbated. What’s more, the reform itself also sends the wrong message: that society should be looking to the younger generation for direction, and not to elderly folk. Because at this point in time anyone against this view is herded with the 60+ voters, a colony of dinosaurs who have little or nothing to offer.

More in Blogs
Is it the more the merrier?
Blogs
Michael Falzon
An inauspicious proposal
Blogs
Raphael Vassallo
Just let it be
Blogs
Saviour Balzan
Gorging ourselves, gobbling our land

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe