26.1.2011 by David Schembri
Malta should change ballot papers listing candidates’ names in alphabetical order if it wants to elect more women, according to European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek.
Speaking at a civil society meeting at the EP’s offices in Valletta, Prof. Buzek was asked for advice and support on how to increase female participation in politics, an issue he raised on at least two occasions during his short two-day visit.
“If you can, change the alphabetical order on your list,” the former Polish-Prime Minister suggested.
He added: “In my country we have the same problem... The first two, three, four people on the list are elected to Parliament or local Parliament. It is an obligation to have at least one woman among the first three people and to have 50 per cent of candidates on the voting ballot who are women.”
Another step forward, the former Solidarnosc activist said, was to have adequate childcare facilities to cater for working mothers, allowing them easy access to their children so they could spend some time with them.The arrangement of the Latin alphabet has been credited with more influence than electability in the 2009 MEP election.
Nationalist Party MEP candidate Roberta Metsola Tedesco Triccas, who had come close to clinching a seat, had said: “This is an alphabet democracy. The PN had about 20,000 block votes in alphabetical order, so I did not stand a chance. It worked in favour of David Casa but so did the fact that he, like Simon Busuttil, was an incumbent.”
Labour favourite Marlene Mizzi had also lost to John Attard Montalto, and had half-jokingly said, “If your surname does not begin with A, B or C do not run for politics”.
During the civil society meeting, Malta Gay Rights Movement representative Mark Grech asked what would be done on minority rights issues, specifically the recognition of gay civil unions across borders.
Prof. Buzek said this was a “very complicated” matter that had to be resolved “step by step” but that the Hungarian EU presidency would be working on the integration of the Roma people and other minorities. Before this meeting, Prof. Buzek met Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat, who, among other things, discussed the issue of Malta’s sixth seat in the EP.
In a statement, Joseph Cuschieri, who is meant to occupy the sixth EP seat allocated to Malta, called on Prof. Buzek to ensure the EP respected the decision of “almost 20,000 Maltese people who chose me to represent them”.
Prof. Buzek also found, and made, time to meet students taking part in the Mini European Assembly, a programme started in 1989 by NSTF to encourage young people’s political participation.
During the meeting, he encouraged students not to take Europe for granted and reminded them that the “boring, very boring negotiations” that characterised the way the EU worked were replacing the decades of wars by which Europe used to resolve its issues.
While his team stood nervously by the door as the meeting went behind schedule, Prof. Buzek insisted on taking interventions by students.
When a young woman asked for advice on how students could shake off their apathy, he quoted a famous citation: “The punishment for the wise person who is not interested in politics is that he might be governed by people who are worse than them.”
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