With a few months to go until Malta’s next European Parliament election, Labour MEP candidate Alex Saliba has changed his surname to Agius Saliba after marrying his longtime girlfriend, Ħaż-Żebbuġ mayor Sarah Agius.
Alex Agius Saliba confirmed with Lovin Malta that electoral considerations played a role in his decision to give his new wife’s surname more prominence than his own. This is due to the infamous ‘donkey vote’ whereby people vote for candidates based on the alphabetical order in which they appear on the ballot sheet.
“After discussing the surname issue, we decided to merge both our surnames,” he said. “Saliba Agius doesn’t sound so good and Agius Saliba will help me with regards the donkey vote. Donkey voting gives candidates whose surnames start with A, B, C or D an extra push and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take this into consideration.”
The ability of men to take their wives’ surnames is a very new phenomenon, only rendered possible by virtue of the Marriage Equality Law that passed in 2017. Prior to this law, men could only take their wives’ surnames if they entered into civil unions with them but not if they married them.
Agius Saliba said the old surname regime was patriarchal and argued it is only fair that men have the legal right to adopt their wives’ surnames.
“I know another married couple which did the same thing we did and they’re not contesting an election,” he said.
PN MEP candidate Peter Agius, who also stands to benefit from donkey voting in next year’s election, this morning took a friendly dig at his opponent for changing his surname.
“Seems you will have two Agius on the ballot list. One is the real thing. The other one… was born yesterday:) Congratulations, Alex Agius Saliba & Mrs Agius Saliba!” he said.