Voting at 16 – ‘Hekk Jonqos!’

On the 1 March 2018 a law is to be passed through parliament in Malta giving 16 year olds the right to vote at national elections. This is expected to pass unanimously at a special parliamentary session. It strikes me as odd that we elect representatives who then proceed to give themselves the right to decide who will vote for them – surely this is our privilege through a referendum and not theirs.

I was recently the first to comment on a social media post celebrating this so called empowerment of our teenagers. I soon found myself in excellent company and was pleased to see that common sense is alive and well in Malta. Hundreds of people reacted and commented by a large majority disagreeing with what our representatives have planned. My favourite reactions on social media were the shortest ones. I will share a few with you: insane; not mature enough; childhood is shrinking; too young; stupid idea; I disagree; bollocks; what a joke; ridiculous; populist; plain nonsense; fodder for hyena politicians; devalues democracy; rubbish; dangerous; anything to get elected; political greed; soulless politics; banali; hekk jonqos!

Voting at 16 means that political parties will be targeting 12 year old children to groom them for the next election – are we ok with this? It is clear that 12 to 16 year olds are another minority group that will be exploited for political gain. This country is tribal enough and obsessed with politics as it is. Do we really want politicians to get into our homes, schools and be wherever children gather, in their push to radicalise our daughters and sons. Are we happy to allow politicians to work their way into our children’s hearts and minds as they do what they do best, spend taxpayers money to buy votes. Do we not have a problem with this intrusion into family life?

There is also the question of education. Should not teenagers be focusing on their education rather than political shenanigans? We all remember being teenagers. Not an easy time, full of uncertainties as one tries to find one’s feet. Teenagers do not think politics is important and nor should they. They have more important thing to do, like growing up.

I find it extraordinarily disingenuous that our representatives from both sides, who have been maligning each other across Europe for all recent history, now find themselves delightfully in agreement on this matter. It is not a coincidence that both parties are as one when it comes to degrading family values.

It is a fact that a few 16 year olds are more mature than some adults. Democracy is not perfect. It is however the best thing we have. In an ideal world we would educate the adult electorate to make intelligent and informed choices and not throw children into the political melting pot. The Maltese electorate enjoys being fanatical about politics and party allegiance. This behaviour has always been encouraged and rewarded by the political class, which is the reason why it is so. The extension of the right to vote to 16 year olds is therefore not the action of an enlightened society passing down the torch of wisdom to the up-and-coming generation. It is rather the political elite extending their insatiable urge to control to our children.

Our representatives are not empowered to pass any law they fancy through parliament. We elect representatives, not dictators. They should abide by the values in our constitution that are based on our society’s norms and principles. Our society is built on traditional family values and these values are the pillars on which our community’s edifice of trust stands. Without trust there is no community. Society evolves gradually and organically of its own accord. Politicians do not ever have the mandate to change society to their image and likeness.

Article published in the Sunday Times of Malta, 11th February 2018