Unacceptable for half the country not to be represented in parliament – Muscat

The Prime Minister said government intends to work with the Opposition, as well as within the Labour Party’s structures to facilitate increased female participation in politics

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that the small number of women elected to parliament effectively meant that half the population was not represented in the country’s highest institution, something he said the government was determined to act on.

Speaking during a phone-in on ONE Radio, Muscat said that following the marriage equality bill, which passed through parliament last Wednesday, it was now time for the country to turn its attention to the problem with low female participation in politics.

He argued that one of the biggest disappointments to emerge from the last general election was that both the Labour and Nationalist parties had elected a smaller number of women to parliament.

“Half the country isn’t represented. Imagine if there wasn’t one singe MP from the south of Malta, or the North,” said Muscat.

He said the situation was a result of a confluence of factors, and not one that could be solved overnight. Nonetheless, he said work would be starting on two main priorities. The first, he said, would be holding discussions with the Opposition to introduce quotas and to make parliament more family-friendly – something Muscat said he would seek to implemented during this legislature.

In addition to this, he said the Labour Party would also press forward with its own plan.

“The 10-year plan will lead us to situation where at least half of our candidates are female. It stands to reason that if half the population is female, so too should our candidates,” explained Muscat.  

He added that Malta did not use a party lists – a system where candidates are selected by the party, rather than directly by the electorate – and this, he said, ensured that it was the people who chose candidates.

“Our system is more complex,” he said. “This is why we need a culture change and to tempt more women to enter politics.”

The initiative, which is called Lead, will be overseen by MEP Miriam Dalli together with her team.

“We won’t just put their name on a list, but we will give them help and mentoring, whatever needs to be done for them to make this big leap,” said Muscat. 

Turning to Health minister Chris Fearne’s election as Labour Party deputy leader for parliamentary affairs, Muscat congratulated Fearne, adding that his position as deputy Prime Minister would be formalised by Monday.

Muscat also thanked finance minister Edward Scicluna, and Equality minister Helena Dalli for the positive campaigns they led.

“As I said in the past days, the Labour Party was spoilt for choice, because no matter the outcome, it would have been a good choice,” said Muscat, adding that he still remembered the conversation he had had with Fearne some 10 years to convince him to enter politics.  

“I’m sure he’ll be doing a good job together with me and Chris Cardona,” he said. 

 

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