A youthful recap of 26.03

The 2022 General Election provided us with many firsts. The first time that electronic counting was ever used in a general election. The first time the gender-balance mechanism was introduced into the electoral system. Most notably, the first time youths between the ages of 16 and 17 were given the right to vote in a general election. This, following parliament passing the Vote 16 reform back in March 2018, granting 16-year-olds the right to vote in both European Parliament and national elections. In the aftermath of what was said and done during the election period, I look to review the campaign from a youthful point of view, and identify what teens and young adults should expect in this upcoming legislature.

Attracting the younger niche of the electorate was on the agenda of both major parties’ strategies to win this political race. It all came down to the tools at their disposal and the execution of what could be done to spread their message and ideology. The Labour Party handed its trust to its youth branch Labour Youths. The Together We Are campaign was delivered solely by young people to target the younger eligible voters. Having a professional, well-managed and successful youth campaign in tandem with the Malta Flimkien campaign aids in convincing that younger audience on who they should place their trust and future for the next five years. This is evident through the campaign’s strong social media presence and the successful events held by the youth branch.

The Labour Party handed its trust to

its youth branch Labour Youths.

In contrast to the Nationalist party’s way of going about it. No major youth campaign was launched by either MZPN or Team Start, PN’s two youth branches. Instead, the Miegħek għal Malta campaign was designed in an Instagram-esque way, which we are led to believe, by PN’s strategists, was meant to attract voters. That, in hindsight, was a very cheap way of targeting the niche. It was a question of substance over an attempt at clever marketing. Something that the electorate took notice of.

Debating is an intrinsic part of any electoral campaign. Luckily enough, the debates held at the University of Malta and MCAST allowed students to get a closer look at what the parties contesting were offering. After attending the leaders’ debate at UoM and watching the one held at MCAST, it is fair to say that this election had some of the most civil debates in recent memory. The atmosphere ever-present created by those attending never overshadowed the leaders during their allocated time. Consequently, it would be foolish to blame a ‘hostile’ atmosphere if you didn’t present your arguments correctly.

No major youth campaign was launched by either MZPN or Team Start.

26.03 came and went like a flash. A roadmap for the next five years was selected and has been placed. What should we youths expect from the newly elected Labour government?

Most prominently, students are to benefit from another increase in their stipend. Following the government increasing stipends by 10% in the last legislature, another rise of 15% will be delivered without condition. A separate measure promised in the Malta Flimkien manifesto is that of a €1,500 grant to help support those students and their families who continue to further their studies. Full-time students employed part-time will now be able to continue to work for up to 30 hours while still benefiting from their stipends, an increase from the capped 25 hours of the past. Moving away from education, all first-time buyers will now benefit from €10,000 given out over a span of 10 years to contribute to their property purchase. This will aid young couples looking to start their families independently.

All that considered, teens and young adults have a bright future ahead of them. A future under a government with a very positive track record when it came to measures affecting students and youths alike.

So, the stage is set for the next five years. What’s next? The government in past years has always placed its trust in youths of all ages. As a result, 16 youth candidates have been elected for this upcoming legislature, with 69% of those who contested now enjoying a seat in parliament. In the forthcoming five years, we must strive to continue building up interest in the political scene among youths. The results speak for themselves. The people trust them, so we should encourage others who may be fearful or disinterested in the political scene. It doesn’t matter whether it is by direct involvement or participation through the voting process, the future is ours, and our future is now.

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