Labour, Nationalists will get equal amount of MPs in proposed quota system

Number of MPs to grow with quotas proposal, additional women MPs distributed equally to both Labour and Nationalist sides

More MPs coming this way
More MPs coming this way

A measure to raise women’s representation in the Maltese parliament will distribute an increased number of women MPs equally between the Nationalist and Labour Party – in a situation that assumes bipartisan dominance of the House so far.  

In measures yet to be announced by the Labour administration, which has committed itself to increase the number of women inside the House of Representatives, both the PN and the PL will have an equal number of MPs added to their side, after parliamentary seats are constitutionally adjusted.  

Labour had pledged to hold a consultation on raising the number of women MPs in its 2017 manifesto, although it did not commit itself to a minimum number. Sources indicate the ratio could be as bold as 40% for whichever sex is under-presented – that is male or female – in parliament.  

That would imply that if a specific number of women is required to raise their percentage of the House to 40%, those additional MPs will be distributed equally to the PN and the PL.  

he system will, however, not function in the case of a parliament with more than two parties, a source who has seen an outline of the plan told MaltaToday. 

Another problem is the fact that parliament’s size is, so far, physically limited to 77 seats.  

The government will have to decide how to elect the necessary number of women – or men, should this dominant gender ever be under-represented in the Maltese parliament – from the party lists.  

“It is likely that they will look at the women candidates with the highest number of votes after the last elected MP on each district, and then select the ones with the highest number of votes. That, in itself, already puts an onus on each political party to field a considerable number of women so that, once the quota system is triggered, there will be a good selection of women to enter the House,” the source told MaltaToday.  

Malta elects five MPs from each of its 13 electoral districts, 65 in total, but the number is then adjusted – always increased, never decreased – so that the seats in the House reflect the number of first-preference votes obtained by both parties in the House. The con-titutional mechanism is only valid in an election of two parties. The current parliament is composed of 67 MPs elected from two parties, although the Nationalist Party hosted the Democratic Party on its electoral ticket, which elected two MPs, one of which by casual election.  

The persistent gender imbalance in political participation remains a recurrent issue in Maltese politics, often felt to be dominated by a political class of men from the legal profession. The Maltese Parliament is composed of 57 men and only 10 women – that is not much progress since 2005 when 9% of the members of parliament were women, compared to 14.9% today.  

Labour has four female MPs, while the PN-PD tandem has six.  

In 2017, the Labour party launched an initiative, LEAD, to mentor women with the aim to increase its female candidates to 50% in the 2027 general election.  

The quotas system will likely stoke much debate as to whether Malta’s proportional representation system should have this mechanism introduced. Supporters of the proposal include University of Malta pro-rector Carmen Sammut and Equality Commissioner Renée Laiviera, but Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi has previously declared she did not agree with quotas. “You have to start from changing our culture – but we must also refrain from putting a psychological hurdle on ourselves which says we won’t make it because we are women,” she had said. 
Likewise, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola has previously spoken out against a quota system, saying that while she would like to see female participation rates going up, she didn’t want a woman elected to a post merely based on her gender.  

“We need to have a programme ensuring as many women are candidates for a position as men. We need strategies, but let us not fall into a situation where a woman has to justify why she was chosen.”  

Independent MP and Partit Demokratiku leader Marlene Farrugia came out strongly against the proposal – warning that gender quotas amount to positive discrimination and will deal a blow to the credibility that women have earned over the years. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had told Labour’s women’s branch that gender quotas will only be a temporary measure “to see more women elected to Parliament and eventually they will no longer be needed.” 

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