A Labour candidate has changed his surname in a manner that will see him shoot to the top of the ballot sheet at the next general election.
Malcolm Paul Galea, a family doctor and the mayor of Ħaż-Żebbuġ who will contest the next election on the sixth and seventh districts, is now Malcolm Paul Agius Galea, after recently adding his wife’s maiden name ahead of his own surname.
Lovin Malta asked Agius Galea whether he changed his surname to benefit electorally, but he refused to speak about it.
“My decision to change my surname is a pure personal issue,” he said.
Whatever his motives, Agius Galea now stands to gain due to the infamous ‘donkey vote’, the process whereby people vote for party candidates based on the alphabetical order in which they appear on the ballot sheet.
Sometimes, people vote for their favourite candidates and then ‘donkey vote’ their way through the rest of the party ballot sheet, ticking their way down the line according to surname, with those at the beginning of the alphabet placed higher up on the voting ballot.
Agius Galea wouldn’t be the first politician to change their surname in a manner that would suit them electorally either.
In 2018, MEP candidate (now MEP) Alex Saliba became Alex Agius Saliba after getting married and confirmed that ‘donkey vote’ considerations played a role in his decision.
“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,” he had said.
Former PN candidate Ryan Mercieca also became Ryan Cefai Mercieca but insisted his decision had nothing to do with politics.
A few years ago, the PN called for the neutralisation of donkey votes by introducing the Robson Rotation, a system whereby different sets of ballot sheets are printed, with candidates appearing at different positions in their party list.
It said that the Electoral Commission didn’t receive its proposal “with much enthusiasm” and that it had therefore suggested an alternative, that of having the names of candidates in an order established by a draw following the closure of the nomination process.
Meanwhile, the PL took a coy stance and said electoral reform must be viewed in a holistic manner.