A political debate organised by University students has been criticised by members of smaller political parties, which have accused organisers of favouring Malta's political giants. 

Progressive party Volt Malta said that its candidates will not be allowed to participate in the debate because organisers have only allowed parties fielding candidates in all electoral districts to take part.

And ADPD candidate Anthony Buttigieg noted that speakers from the two major parties, Labour and PN, have been allocated nearly double the speaking time as smaller ones. 

The 'University General Election Debate' will take place on Thursday at noon, and it is expected to see Prime Minister Robert Abela, Opposition leader Bernard Grech and other political party leaders go head-to-head in the first debate of the general election.

It is being organised by the University Students' Council and Malta University Debating Union. 

In a Facebook post, Volt Malta said they have been "kept out of the ring" and not allowed to participate due to a "technicality". 

"We have students that live in our districts whose voices we represent will not be heard in this panel because the forces that be decided to exclude us on a technicality," the party wrote.

Volt Malta co-president Arnas Lasys told Times of Malta the 'technicality' is the fact that the party does not have candidates running on all districts. 

Volt is fielding two candidates in the upcoming general election – Alexia De Bono (districts 8 and 9) and Thomas ‘Kass’ Mallia (districts 10 and 11). 

ADPD's Buttigieg, meanwhile, said in his own Facebook post that he would not be attending the debate, in protest at the unequal time allotted to candidates from smaller parties.

"You would have thought that the temple of free and forward thinking in Malta would have given equal weight to all sides of the argument," he wrote. "The size of a party or institution does not necessarily reflect the strength of an argument. All should have been given equal time."

KSU: We want an objective debate

KSU president Neil Zahra told Times of Malta that the original plan was to give "every party and independent candidate" a platform. But that would have caused technical and logistical issues.

"We want the debate to be as objective as possible, and when you look at the other debates announced so far, ours actually gives a voice to other parties, not just Labour and Nationalist," Zahra said.

"Originally we wanted everyone to be on stage, but that would have been a logistical nightmare, also would not have given smaller parties and candidates enough time to discuss and have their say."

He said that is why KSU and the Malta University Debating Union provided a set criteria for who can participate in the debate. 

"This debate will feature representatives from the political parties which are fielding candidates on all electoral districts, but this does not mean Volt Malta does not deserve to be there," he said.

Zahra has reached out to Volt Malta to explain the situation.

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