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‘There’s No Time For Personal Emotions’: Malta’s Young Councillors Adjust To Life In Politics

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It has just been over two months since the local council elections took place in May. These elections will not only be remembered for the historic result the Labour Party achieved, but also the results achieved by young people, with well over 100 youths getting elected.

Now that some time has passed, Lovin Malta has contacted six of Malta’s new young local councillors, three from each major party, to ask them how their new roles have affected their life and their opinion on youth issues.

And this is what we learned.

1.  Life has changed and has become busier

Trying to get elected is not the only hurdle that a politician faces. Undoubtedly, election period is the most dynamic part of the political experience, but that is just it, it is part of the experience. After getting elected, they have to prove that they are worth the vote.

That is a heavy task in itself, all of the young councillors have said that their lives have been very different prior to being a councillor. Martina Grech, an 18-year-old PL local councillor of Qormi, said that life “changed drastically” since getting elected,

“To be part of a local government is not a piece of cake,” she said “You realize that there are a lot of issues, especially for a city such as Qormi which has an ageing population, bringing about its own challenges .

Justine Palmier, a 25-year-old PN councillor of Floriana, pointed out that life has become much busier than usual and said she had to learn time management skills to be able to balance time between local council related meetings, day to day meet-ups with residents and her full-time job.

Carlos Zarb, a 17-year-old PL councillor from St Paul’s Bay, pointed out that one of the difficulties he has encountered is that “people expect things to be solved immediately and, unfortunately, it is not always possible”.

2. There has to be a balance between their personal life and public life

Many of the young councillors have also said that their new responsibilities mean they also need to need to find a balance between their daily youth life and public life.

Francine Farrugia, a 25-year-old PN councillor from Siggiewi, said that this was the first difficulty she encountered when adjusting to public life.

“This to an extent has also had a toll on the time I spend with my next of kin, especially due to the new meeting schedule,” she said. “Another difficulty I have encountered is that public life does not have the time for your personal emotions, as you must always be available to the public.”

3. People recognise them all the time

One other change they have had to get used to is the fact that people now recognise them when they walk through their localities.

“People tend to recognize you more wherever you are and this leads for one to be more cautious of what he does even in his private life,” said Frederick Aquilina, a 20-year-old PN councillor from Luqa.

Scott Camilleri, a 21-year-old PL councillor from Birżebbuġia, said that while his private life has been lost, he doesn’t mind this because he loves meeting people.

“I see this work, which is something that I love, as a mission or a hobby,” he said. “I have gotten used to this.”

Martina Grech said social media has also posed a challenge, particularly since youths born in the millennial era are used to constantly sharing their lives on the internet.

“You need to be able to draw a line but also keep in mind that we are still young and that it’s okay to express yourself on social media and let the new generation be the beginning of a changed mentality,” she said.

4. Most think people believe in them, despite their young age

Labour Party Youths in an event organised by Forum Żgħażagħ Laburisti

Labour Party Youths in an event organised by Forum Żgħażagħ Laburisti

Nationalist youths at a Team Start event during the May 2019 Elections

Nationalist youths at a Team Start event during the May 2019 Elections

When asked if they feel people don’t take them seriously because of their age, most of them were positive that people actually do believe in them.

Frederick Aquilina was direct in saying that age makes no difference, while Justine Palmier said that people “were also happy seeing a young face”.

 “I think from the previous elections we have seen [that] a lot of people believe in youths as there has been a significant increase in youths that got elected in local councils and even as MEPs,” said Scott Camilleri

Carlos Zarb said that people did doubt him before the election, but it all turned around since May.

According to Martina Grech, the situation is different.

“We have a long way to go,” she said. “The younger you are the more difficult it is to be taken seriously in politics.”

She was complemented by Francine Farrugia, who herself said that “One has the tendency to think that at the age of 25 I might not be experienced enough.”

5. Overpopulation is a major concern

Asked about what Malta’s most pressing issues will be in the next 30 years, five out of the six councillors mentioned overpopulation, a sign that youths of both parties universally see this trend as an issue.

With that, they have also mentioned issues that come out as a result of overpopulation.

The environment was mentioned as a major concern among those councillor youths who ran on the PN ticket.

The female councillors also mentioned other issues.

Francine Farrugia said that social media has resulted in a lack of communication between family and friends and also mentioned education reform as an issue that needs to be tackled.

Martina Grech focused more on the economic and financial aspects of life, pointing towards rent prices and low pensions. Justine Palmier saw that in the next 30 years there will be “more stress and health problems, especially for young people.”

6. It is an enriching experience

Despite the problems, all six councillors gave the impression that their lives have changed for the better as a result of their decision to contest the local council elections.

“From a personal perspective, as a youth, I am enriching my knowledge in various areas,” Francine Farrugia said.

“[My life] has changed for the better because it is a very interesting learning experience,” Carlos Zarb said.

Lovin Malta will be publishing the second part of our feature on the youth local councillors in the coming days

READ NEXT: This Is What Needs To Be Done To Radically Change Malta’s Local Councils

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