The current ballot sheet template should change from listing candidates in alphabetical order to a system that alternatives between genders, avoiding “donkey voting” – people approving candidates purely based on the order they appear on the ballot.
This is what newly-formed European party Volt Malta proposed in light of the gender-balancing bill being tabled in Parliament.
The current template for voting ballot sheets lists candidates in alphabetical order, which gives those with surnames starting with A, B or C an advantage over those starting with V or Z.
Having the template changed to alternating genders could address this phenomenon, but only if candidates are not listed in alphabetical order.
The idea is to address the poor representation of women in Malta’s House of Representatives.
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.
Volt Malta also raised concerns about the fact that third parties and independent candidates will not benefit from the mechanism.
“We see this is a serious oversight, as it is wrong to assume that Malta will always only have two parties in Parliament and that if it has more, then this mechanism will not be needed,” the party said.
The party also called for paternity leave, making being a parliamentarian a full-time position and gender parity in the Electoral Commission and on electoral lists.
“These are crucial ingredients for attracting qualified candidates of both sexes,” it said.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party submitted its own amendments to the bill.
PN MP Hermann Schiavone put forward some proposals, including that third parties should benefit from the mechanism if they manage to elect at least five MPs to Parliament.
The Opposition Party also called for immediate causal elections should a woman candidate be elected on two districts, so that the composition of Parliament is known on the night of the election and the mechanism kicks in as quickly as possible.
The PN also called for a clearer ranking system for women candidates who failed to get elected on the first round but would be entitled to the extra seats added. The party said the ranking should be based on the last count votes secured by the eliminated candidates, expressed as a percentage of the district they contested in.
This is because currently, the details on how which female candidates would benefit from the added seats is open to interpretation, saying that either “the number of votes obtained” or “votes as a percentage of the district quota” will be used to make the selection.
What do you make of these proposals?