In the next general election, 16-year-olds will be able to vote. Malta is the second country in Europe to make this bold leap forward. But what is the use of pretending to listen to 8,500 new voters when so much of what we say is delegitimised, disregarded or falls on deaf ears?
Maltese youths are eager to get involved in politics, but all too often it feels like when we try to leave a real impact, our thoughts and opinions are ostracised. We’re told there isn’t a mandate for the discussions we want. We’re told things have always been done this way, so they can’t be changed. We’re told we’re naive and we’ll soon learn how the world really works.
It’s great to have a vote. But what we really want – irrespective of our vote – is to be heard and valued. We are in desperate need of candidates who genuinely want to achieve this goal. If our vote is going to count for anything, the first thing we need are people to vote for. Instead we’re being given a token in the form of a very PR-able ‘new right’ but no real change on other fronts.
We don’t need to start receiving birthday cards, spammy New Year text messages and empty promises from desperate candidates who’ll do or say anything to get elected but then hang onto their seats no matter what. What we need is an effective channel of communication between youth and politicians where it is easy to strike conversation and debate pressing issues – and where our ideas are taken seriously, not explained away as partisan or idealistic.
We cannot make empty calls for critical thinking but then shy away from open minds.
“If our vote is going to count for anything, the first thing we need are people to vote for.”
Sure, the factual pillars of politics should be taught in schools, to allow teenagers a solid base on which to build their opinions and cultivate new ideas. But more importantly, we need to find a way of stopping the vicious partisan cycle on which we have already wasted too much time.
Politicians have to stop being afraid of the younger generation and start listening to them instead. Giving us a vote is a cop-out if politicians don’t rethink their approach to actually earn their votes.
Currently, we are victims of a weak education system that fails to prepare us for the world of globalization and free markets that politicians so proudly boast of. Our mental health is hanging by a thread. Just last week we lost a young man whose life could have been spared. The week before we lost a young girl who fell through the net for reasons we don’t yet know.
If that’s not a wakeup call, then what is? How about the constant rape of our land and our embarrassing air quality in comparison to the rest of Europe? You say that we are democratic, yet we are a laughing stock when it comes to freedom of speech, the backbone of our said ‘democracy’.
We’ve laid out the cards. Now, who am I going to vote for?
Eve Borg Bonello is 14 years old. She’s a Form 4 student and plans to study law in the future.