Boost number of women MPs, President urges parties

President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca says lack of representation of women in policymaking and decision-making processes undermining democracy 

President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca
President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca

President of the Republic Marie Louise Coleiro Preca has urged political parties to increase the number of women in the Maltese parliament, warning that the lack of representation of women in policymaking and decision-making processes was undermining democracy.

In a speech marking the seventieth year since Malta granted women’s suffrage, Coleiro Preca, a vocal proponent of gender equality and greater female representation, took the opportunity to appeal to all political parties in Malta to encourage more women to take part in the country’s political and public life.

“Even though 70 years have passed since Malta granted women the right to vote, just 13% of Malta’s MPs are female,” the President lamented as she called on political parties to encourage more female participation ahead of the forthcoming general election.

“If we were to continue in this path, Malta’s parliament would have equal representation in 296 years’ time. This would undermine our democracy,” the President said, just weeks after warning against women’s absence from leadership positions.

In Malta, just nine of the House of Representative’s 71 MPs are women, placing the country in the 142nd place worldwide in terms of women representation in parliament, behind countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Guatemala.

Moreover, the latest European Gender Equality Index rated Malta at 29.4% when it came to Maltese women’s political participation, when the EU average stood at 49.8%.

The President’s appeal was made against the backdrop of the prime minister’s call in favour of a gender quota system that would see more women elected to Parliament. Joseph Muscat’s “temporary” proposal – which has also been backed by civil liberties minister Helena Dalli – would see an increase of female MPs without decreasing the number of male ones, ostensibly suggesting an even more bloated Parliament.

However, the proposal has since been met with criticism with one female MP, Marlene Farrugia, warning that gender quotas amount to positive discrimination and will deal a blow to the credibility that women have earned over the years.

Moreover, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola and Labour MEP Miriam Dalli have warned that a quota system risks tokenizing women. 

Speaking on the third anniversary of her Presidency, Coleiro Preca, the second woman to hold the post after Agatha Barbara, paid tribute to Barbara for championing gender equality and for her courage in challenging the status quo.

“70 years ago Agatha Barbara was Malta’s first female MP and 10 years later, she became the country’s first female minister. Malta’s second female minister came 43 years later and it took the country 32 years to have its second female President,” Coleiro Preca said she laid wreaths at the foot of a monument dedicated to Barbara.

Moreover, the President said Barbara was a catalyst in introducing compulsory education, equal pay, paid maternity leave, as well as retirement and unemployment benefits.