Volt. No, it’s not another food courier company – it’s a pan-European federalist group hoping to make waves in the next general election.
What is Volt?
Volt Europa is a political movement with a presence in 29 countries and over 25,000 members. It was established as an answer to the lulling political climate in the EU during Brexit.
Their policies revolve around citizen empowerment through grass-root projects, social justice and the digitisation of the economy.
The movement has one sitting Member of European Parliament, German founder Damian Boeselager, and provides its members’ structures to set up their own national parties in the bloc.
In Malta, it was established by a 23-year-old Lithuanian man called Arnas Lasys in 2018.
What is their campaign strategy for Malta?
Even though the election is likely just a season away, Volt Malta’s ten-man party hasn’t ironed out the details of how they plan to get win at least one seat in Maltese Parliament.
Some of their members, which includes its founder Lasys, aren’t even eligible to contest because they’re not Maltese. But this doesn’t seem to deter Volt Malta’s electoral ambition.
“We understand that as a third party we have to do a lot more to be perceived as a viable option, so we’re trying to be active in as many different fields as possible.”
“We’re working on grass-root projects like #INeedMAP to show we can instigate positive change even off the ballot sheets,” Lasys told Lovin Malta.
The #INeedMAP campaign, which is an online map of pharmacies that sell emergency contraception, might be the first time you heard about Volt Malta. Sexual health – a deep and often ignored issue, is a top priority for them.
They’re set to be Malta’s first pro-choice party – a risky stance in a country that prides itself on being pro-life.
On hunting, another tense issue with a significant voting pool – they look to regulate it. On migration, the issue that tops voters concerns, they believe Malta has been abandoned by EU policy.
How would Volt face up to Malta’s third-largest party?
If Malta were to abandon it’s a two-party system – the next runner-up party is a far-right one.
Norman Lowell, a far-right extremist heading Imperium Europa, managed to mobilise at least 10,000 voters on his racist, xenophobic platform in the last election.
Meanwhile, one of the largest petitions ever created is one against illegal immigration – with 40,000 signatures. It’s a topic that tops the priority list for voters, so how can Volt compete to attract people alienated by the two established parties?
“The asylum system isn’t fair on border countries like Malta and it does cause tensions,” Lasys said, which has resulted in far-right parties gaining prominence in Europe.
“We want to push for a unified European common asylum system. In fact, Volt’s MEP is advocating for it at a European level,” he added.
Volt Malta shares the government’s view of a burden-sharing system for refugees.
The party also believes in giving refugees the ability to be self-sufficient, which would ease the burden on the state and chip away at negative attitudes towards them.
Perhaps what could make them stand out is their aim to further democratise the European Union, by giving our representatives in the EU more power to influence policy.
“We want to create a stronger democratic union. We want to give the European Parliament more power to instate laws. Currently, it’s in the hands of the European Commission, which is an unelected body.”
And instead of wanting to tighten borders, Volt Malta wants to give more rights for foreigners on the island.
“We support a European Citizen’s Initiative called ‘Votes Without Borders’ which would allow EU voters to participate in general elections in the same way they can elect MEPs,” the young politician said.
This could be a recipe for success for Volt, giving them access to foreign voters who currently can’t cast their votes in general elections and don’t identify with the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party.
It might come sooner than we realise. The state has just issued a public consultation for proposals for an anti-racist and xenophobic plan, which identified debate and democracy as a key sector for policy.
Having a vote is having a voice at the decision-making table, and giving foreign-born residents the chance to exercise that right will bring them on the same playing field as their Maltese counterparts.
Foreigners make up nearly a quarter of the island. If long-term residents were given a vote, Maltese candidates won’t be able to solely push their campaign efforts on locals. More importantly for Volt Malta, it would give them a better chance at building a real backbone of supporters.
If Volt Malta does manage to prepare a campaign in time for the election, it could potentially inspire Malta’s modest activist scene and young, alienated voters to rally behind them.
But even then, it’s still a tiny fraction of people against a population with strong party loyalty, conservatist views on hunting, migration and abortion, xenophobic attitudes.
It’s an arduous task – and they might suffer by only preaching to converted progressives and the odd floating voter – but they have to start somewhere.
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