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Abelas Over Zammits: PN Candidate Calls For An End To Alphabetical Discrimination In Donkey Voting System

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A Nationalist MP candidate is calling for an end to the discriminatory ‘donkey voting’ system that gives candidates an unfair advantage by having their surnames further up the alphabet.

“The alphabet is the biggest discrimination in our electoral system,” PN candidate Mark Anthony Sammut said a video uploaded to Facebook.

‘Donkey voting’ is when a voter ranks a candidate based on the order they appear on the ballot itself. When candidates are listed alphabetically, as they are in Malta, it gives the Abelas and Borgs of the island an edge over the Tantis or Zammits.

The figures speak for themselves, as Sammut notes. The surnames of 48 of Malta’s 67 MPs start with the first seven letters of the alphabet. Meanwhile, there are just four MPs whose surnames begin with the last seven letters. 

When it comes to women MPs, the gap is even wider. The surnames of all eight women MPs started with the first six letters of the alphabet.

In a Maltese election, where getting elected sometimes hinges on just a handful of votes, donkey voting can be the deciding factor. Most aspiring politicians have recognised this, with some eager to take their spouse’s surname to get bumped up the pecking order. 

There’s a simple solution to the issue, Sammut explains, ensuring constant random rotation on individual ballots, like the Robson’s Rotation system. It’s been used worldwide to success, including nations like Tanzania, which use the single transferrable vote electoral system. Australia introduced the system in 1983.

For example, the system would see 100 ballot papers printed with one candidate first on the list, while the next 100 would have another candidate’s name on top and so on.

Riforma Elettorali

Fil-verità s-sistema elettorali tagħna hija inġusta, hi unfair u hi diskriminatorja ħafna. Mhux bejn in-nisa u l-irġiel, imma bejn min hu kunjomu Abela u min hu kunjomu Zarb. U jekk ikun hemm rieda din faċli tiġi irranġata. Nitkellem dwar dan fi-video tal-lum ⬇️

Posted by Mark Anthony Sammut on Friday, January 22, 2021

Sammut, whose surname does appear at the bottom end of the ballot sheet, said the alphabet was on the biggest discriminations in Malta’s electoral system. Addressing it, he said, was crucial to ensuring equal opportunity for everyone.

MP Hermann Schiavone has raised this issue before. However, even he lamented that many MPs, who actually benefit from the system, would be willing to change it.

Newly-formed European party Volt Malta has suggested making the ballot alternate between genders.

Sammut raised the issue amidst a parliamentary debate over the introduction of a gender corrective mechanism to add more women MPs to the House. 

Currently, only 13% of the Parliament is composed of women. The bill, which has passed its second reading this week, would see up to twelve seats added for the Labour and Nationalist Party should less than 40% of the House be made up of “the underrepresented sex”, that is women or gender-neutral people.

Sammut, who is in favour of the proposal, believes that such changes cannot be instituted on their own – insisting that it would need to be coupled with wider amendments to electoral discrimination, starting with the alphabet.

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Julian doesn’t like to talk about himself. But if he did, he would let you know that he’s into anything that has got to do with politics, the environment, social issues, and human interest stories.

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