Junior minister suggests separate ballot sheet to triple women MPs

Aaron Farrugia proposes women-only national ballot sheet as a stopgap measure to triple the number of female MPs

Parliamentary secretary for EU funds Aaron Farrugia
Parliamentary secretary for EU funds Aaron Farrugia

The new parliamentary secretary for EU funds has floated a proposal to triple the number of women MPs without imposing gender quotas on election candidates.

Aaron Farrugia suggested that, as a stopgap measure, women candidates should be able to contest on two separate ballot sheets – the current district-based sheet and a new national sheet specifically for women candidates. From this latter list, ten women candidates will be elected to Parliament, based both on their individual votes obtained and as a proportional representation of the parties’ shares of votes in the election.

They will be elected over and above the 65 constitutionally elected MPs, meaning that Malta’s Parliament will rise to 75 MPs so long as this measure is in place.

Farrugia insisted that this proposal should only be introduced as a stopgap measure until the root causes of the shortage of female election candidates are addressed – such as by introducing the concept of full-time MPs, and by encouraging political parties to urge their women mayors, councilors and activists to run for election with as much zest as they do to their “star candidates”. 

He also called for Constitutional reform so as to allow Prime Ministers to pick up to three non-elected “technocrats” into their Cabinets.

“I agree with the imposition quotas for a limited time period, during which the country will implement the necessary reforms so as to give the people a truly representative society,” he said. “Women have to play their part here too, and they shouldn’t shy away from contesting elections or use the [temporary] gender quotas as a crutch that allows them to get elected with less work from their end.

“There can be no short cuts to the practice of house visits, and families expect their candidates to visit them so that they can get to know them.”

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has repeatedly spoken in favour of gender quotas, as a temporary system to boost the number of female MPs without reducing the number of male ones.

Labour newspaper Kullhadd reported on Sunday that Muscat will this week announce a detailed plan that will see the PL “drastically” increase its number of women candidates in general, MEP and local council elections.

The implementation of the plan will be entrusted to Labour MEP Miriam Dalli, who has said that it will be “the most feminist initiative that a Maltese political party has launched so far”. 

Dalli recently admitted she is torn over the concept of gender quotas, arguing that while there are too few female MPs in the Maltese Parliament, the imposition of gender quotas risks tokenizing female MPs.

“Yes, gender quotas have had a positive impact in some Scandinavian countries but there remains a concern that women who get elected through quotas will be considered lower, as though they weren’t capable of getting elected on their own steam,” she said.

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