Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has filed a constitutional case against the government, challenging the gender balance mechanism approved by parliament last month.

"The constitutional amendments approved in parliament are discriminatory in favour of PN/PL women and against all other women who are not affiliated to one of the two big parties. Worse than that, it is an insult jointly concocted by the Partit Laburista and the Partit Nazzjonalista,” Cassola said in a statement announcing the filing of the case. 

He argued that the main political parties, led by Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech, had created “a discriminatory system” in order to be able to add to their own parliamentarians in parliament. 

“They have used Maltese women, pretending that they want to promote equality among the sexes, to ensure that 12 PL and PN women candidates not elected to parliament are co-opted into Parliament,” he claimed. 

The system approved by parliament will see the number of MPs increase if one gender gets less than 40 per cent of the available seats, adding up to a maximum of six seats for each side of the House. 

That mechanism will only kick in if two parties are elected to parliament.

In his constitutional challenge, Cassola said that rather than adopting a simple system that is fair with everybody, the two elected parties had created “a monstrous system” whereby independent women or women belonging to minor parties who are amongst the first 12 most voted women but who do not get elected to Parliament, are simply removed from the list and replaced by female PN and PL candidates who would have obtained fewer votes than them. 

Cassola is arguing that the mechanism goes against the right to free elections, as guaranteed by the Human Rights Convention that ensures the people's freedom to express their opinion in the choice of the legislature. The mechanism, he said, only applies to the candidates of the two parties represented in parliament and does not cater for any other scenario.

“This is a distortion of democracy and an affront to the dignity of Maltese women who, in order to have a chance to be co-opted into the Maltese parliament, will have to renounce their genuine political beliefs and be constrained to form part of the Labour or Nationalist parties,” he held. 

Cassola added that this constitutional amendment politically discriminates amongst voters since the will expressed by the voter for a female non-PN and non-PL candidate who is classified amongst the first 12 most-voted women is completely ignored. 

"This amendment also goes against the right to Freedom of Association. In fact, an independent candidate like me, who is interested in forming a political alliance amongst different independent candidates, is finding it nearly impossible to find women who do not adhere to the PN or PL beliefs who are ready to contest the elections, after the approval of this discriminatory amendment which is now discouraging them from contesting elections," he said.

Lawyer Claire Bonello filed the writ. 

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