MaltaToday | 24 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sweet 16 voters: John Dalli and David Agius preceded Muscat by four years

It was not Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat who first proposed lowering the voting age to 16. Nor was it Alternattiva Demokratika, which only preceded Muscat by a few months.
It wasn’t even the PN’s Information director Frank Psaila, who also wrote in favour of lowering the voting age as the MZPN’s public relations officer in March.
The honour for being the first to propose the enfranchisement of Malta’s 16-year-olds goes to Nationalist whip David Agius and Social Policy Minister John Dalli.
John Dalli proposed lowering the voting age to 16 in a manifesto he wrote in the run up to the PN leadership contest in February 2004.
“I believe that one of the first signs to encourage young people to participate more in the country’s political process is to initiate a nationwide consultation, so that in a short time parliament approves a law through which youths aged 16 are given the right to vote in local elections.”
But Dalli was not the first to make such a bold proposal. He was preceded by a few months by Nationalist MP David Agius when speaking during the budget debate on the Ministry of Youth and Culture in 2003.
On that occasion Agius had called for consideration of a proposal for voting age to be lowered to 16 instead of 18.
Such a measure, he said, would reflect greater confidence in young people, and also encourage them to participate more fully in politics and decision-making. Agius referred to a sociological study by Prof. Anthony Abela, which observed that Maltese youths were less dependent on their parents than foreigners since they had a source of income from a young age. They were also among the heaviest users of computers and mobile phones.
Contacted by MaltaToday, Agius confirmed that he still favours a lowering of the voting age but would prefer to wait until the party formalizes its position in public before speaking again on this issue.
Writing on the Times on Friday Social Policy Minister Dolores Cristina also declared that she is “all for giving 16-year olds the vote at local council elections,” while acknowledging that “until a few days ago I held the conviction that the majority of young people would be in favour of vote eligibility at age 16.”
Now she claims to have her doubts on whether they should vote in national elections.
Surely in one sweep Joseph Muscat has managed to champion an issue first raised by exponents of the Nationalist Party.

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