All you need to know about the 2017 election candidates

Five or perhaps six political parties, two independent candidates, young and old candidates, old faces and new faces and female participation is what Tim Diacono discusses in this feature on the 2017 election candidates

Election candidate nominations closed at the weekend, leaving 377 people in the running for a seat in Parliament
Election candidate nominations closed at the weekend, leaving 377 people in the running for a seat in Parliament

Election candidate nominations closed at the weekend, leaving 377 people in the running for a seat in Parliament and giving a clear picture of the parties’ electoral strategies. 

The Nationalist Party will field a record 110 candidates across the 13 districts, including 11 from the fledgling Democratic Party. Out of those, 61 – including every single PD candidate – will run on two districts, giving voters looking for a change of government a wide range of candidates to pick from. Indeed, the PN has fielded more candidates than the Labour Party in every district except for the first and third, where the two parties are fielding an equal number of candidates, and in the fourth and the fifth, where Labour has more candidates. The districts most swamped with PN candidates are two of the party’s traditional strongholds – the ninth (20 candidates) and the tenth (21 candidates). 

The PN’s candidate list also puts into perspective its leader Simon Busuttil’s attempt to refresh the party. Indeed, the majority of his team (60%) have never contested an election before, and 20% of the candidates are under 35 years old. 

Yet Busuttil’s new candidates have not come at the expense of sitting MPs, and indeed all of the current PN MPs – barring Tony Abela, Charlo Bonnici, Tonio Fenech, and Michael Gonzi – will be up for re-election. 

In contrast, the Labour Party will only be fielding 68 candidates in this election, out of whom fewer than half (29) are already sitting MPs. 40 of Labour’s candidates will run on two districts, including 21 of its MPs. As with the PN, the districts with the highest number of PL candidates (14) are both Labour strongholds – in this case, the third and the fifth. 

However, unlike their rivals, Labour will head to the polls with relatively seasoned candidates; indeed only 29% of them have never contested an election before. Also, it has not put much trust in young candidates – with fewer than 15% of its candidates under 35 years old. 

Alternattiva Demokratika has only approved ten candidates, all of whom – expect for the young Marc Andrea Cassar – will contest on two districts. 

The new far-right Moviment Patrijotti has approved 15 candidates, all of whom will contest on two districts. The new party appears to have chosen to concentrate on some districts more than others – fielding four candidates in the fourth district and three in the seventh, but only one ‘Patriot’ in the sixth and tenth districts. 

In an unprecedented move, the leader of Alleanza Bidla Ivan Grech Mintoff has managed to field himself in 12 electoral districts and the other two of his candidates in 11 districts – meaning that the electorate will have the option of voting for the small Eurosceptic party in all but the fifth district. The AB’s election campaign also stands out for another reason – at 87 years old, candidate Saviour Xuereb is the oldest person to ever stand for a general election in Malta. 

Elsewhere, Joseph Aquilina will run as an independent candidate on the first and twelfth districts, while Zaren Bonnici ‘Tal-Ajkla’ will run on the third and thirteenth districts.

Where are all the women candidates?

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has recently pledged to introduce gender quotas in Parliament, in an attempt to even out the number of male and female MPs. Indeed, with only nine female MPs out of 71 in the last Parliament, Malta ranked the lowest for female representation out of all EU member states. A problem often flagged during the ensuing debate was the shortage of female candidates, with critics flagging the fact that only 40 (15%) out of the 269 candidates for the 2013 general election were women.

Yet the problem is likely to persist if not exacerbated after the upcoming election. Indeed, only 42 of this year’s candidates are women, which – out of a total of 377 candidates – puts the female percentage at a poor 11%. 

The party with the smallest percentage of female candidates, apart from Alleanza Bidla and its three male candidates, is Alternattiva Demokratika who only managed to convince one woman – Danika Formosa – to run for election, putting its female candidate percentage at 10%. 

The Patrijotti have fared better in this regard – three of its 15 candidates (20%) are women. 

Despite Muscat’s frequent calls for gender quotas that his government is “the most feminist in Malta’s history”, only 11 Labour candidates this year are women, who includes three – Deborah Schembri, Justyne Caruana and Helena Dalli – who form part of the current Cabinet. 

However, eight of these women will contest on two districts, which will allow Labour to field at least one female candidate in every district. 

With 27 women (24%), the Nationalist Party can boast to have the highest percentage of female candidates in this year’s election, a percentage which Simon Busuttil has said is still too low.

They are helped in some part by the Partit Demokratiku who are fielding four female candidates, including its leader Marlene Farrugia – meaning that, as a stand-alone, 36% of the PD’s candidates are women. 

Who has jumped ship this year

As with other elections, the 2017 election will see both parties field candidates who had, under much media spotlight, jumped ship from the rival party. Marlene Farrugia and her partner Godfrey Farrugia, both elected to Parliament on the Labour ticket back in 2013, will now run under the PN flag – both as PD candidates. Marlene Farrugia will run on the fifth and tenth districts, while Godfrey Farrugia will run on the sixth and seventh. 

Labour has managed to convince former Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino – who was targeted by the Labour Party in its 2008 electoral campaign over alleged corruption – to seek a return to Parliament on the seventh district. Former PN Lija mayor Ian Castaldi Paris will also run for Labour on the seventh and eight districts, while Jean Claude Micallef – until recently a member of the PN’s executive – will turn out for his former rivals on the third and tenth districts. 

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