Women in political party leadership in Malta - Alexia DeBono

Women in political party leadership in Malta - Alexia DeBono

17 Jun 2023, 10:00:00 UTC
In all of Malta's history there have only been 5 female political party leaders in Malta

This text was first published on MaltaToday's newspaper on Sunday 11th June 2023

Just over a week ago Sandra Gauci was elected ADPD leader, for which I congratulate her and wish her well. There is much we see eye to eye on and I hope we find opportunities to work together. However, several outlets have erroneously reported that she is the third female leader of a political party in Malta, which is untrue - in fact, she is the fifth.

While that does not take away from her achievement, it’s essential to make sure we don’t rewrite Malta’s history, and the impact of women’s leadership in politics.

As everyone knows, Mabel Strickland became Malta’s first female political party leader, when she founded the Progressive Constitutional Party in 1953. She was also a prominent politician prior to establishing her party, having been elected in 1950, as an MP for the Constitutional Party, and again in 1951. 

Meanwhile, as leader of the Progressive Constitutional Party, Mabel Strickland won a seat almost 10 years later in 1962. The party participated in its last election in 1971.

As the 2-party system became entrenched in the country’s political culture, there were no women leading a political party in Malta until the European Parliament elections of 2009.

That year, Mary Gauci left the right-wing Azzjoni Nazzjonali party, and then founded and led the eurosceptic Libertas Malta party. Following an unsuccessful election run the party went inactive and Mary became one of the Labour Party’s candidates for the 2019 MEP elections.

In 2016, Marlene Farrugia left the Labour Party and became Malta’s third female leader of a political party when she co-founded the Democratic Party. She also broke a decades-long streak of parliament lacking a third-party voice. 

Even after she left the party, as an independent MP Marlene shook the political status quo as she presented a private member’s bill to decriminalise abortion in May 2021, which was sadly shelved.

Just two weeks before Marlene presented her bill, I co-founded Volt Malta in 2021 where I was first elected as vice-President and then appointed as Co-President later that year. I’ve held the party’s co-leadership position since and was re-elected for a two-year term in December 2022, after I ran for last year's General Election.

I’m glad to no longer be the only woman presently leading a party in Malta now that Sandra Gauci has been elected as Chairperson for ADPD. I’m sure she’ll do great things during her tenure.

There's a scarcity of women in politics, and the gender corrective mechanism has not been a solution. There's better ideas out there, such as gender-alternating electoral lists. 

I look forward to a time when we’re no longer led to dismay at the handful of women elected to parliament. Women in politics and in leadership should not be seen as outliers, but part of the norm.

-Alexia DeBono, Volt Malta Co-President