By: Dr. Kenneth De Zilwa
Age has become an increasingly discussed topic when it comes to our political leaders (i.e. Parliamentarians), the arguments have been that we are unduly saddled with older politicians that make the parliament system meaningless as it prevents the infusing of young energetic and more progressive leaders in to governing the country. Well, yes this is definitely one aspect that is on the table and it seems to be the dominant view shared by many of whom are frustrated about the responsibility and accountability of these members albeit their ability to comprehend the demands of the younger generations. Therefore the proposers of this debate are eager for changing the status quo. On the other hand there are those who contend that age is just a number and the ability of the person irrespective of one’s age is what matters in a participatory democracy, for people have many routes to representation and redress.
In order to really get to the bottom of this debate we need to analyse and understanding the dynamics of the global public office and the trends in life expectancy.
Scrutiny of Public Office
The evolution of democracies has meant that parliaments are indispensable and now are deemed to be an integral part of the institutional framework that represents the people’s democratic choice. The choice of selection (be it liberal or conservative or its varying compositions) is of course based on their own perceptions of what the future should be transformed into considering the stage of its economy, social and environmental concerns and the overbearing global geopolitical trends. Irrespective of country-specific rules, the role of parliamentarians, (of both men and women), remains the same: to represent the people and ensure that public policy is informed by the citizens on whose lives they impact. If we look at the political context of each country we find a unique disposition in their selection process, however, parliaments and Parliamentarians do face a common challenge, that is, how best to consult citizens and keep them informed about parliamentary deliberations and how such deliberations would eventually shape the people’s lives (for better or worse, as public policy cuts both ways). What is important here is that the relative maturity of parliamentarians is called into focus, as the people are now looking for responsibility, accountability and also the bottom-line, of delivery.
The UNDP Global parliamentary study undertaken in 2012 indicated that there are 46,552 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the world. Of which there are 8,716 women parliamentarians, or 19.25 pct. of the total number of MPs. While the global average number of parliamentarians per country is 245.China has the largest parliament with 3,000 members in the Chinese National People’s Congress. The world’s smallest parliament is in Micronesia, with just 14 MPs. While the global average age of a male MPs is 53 the average age a woman MP is 50. Sub-Saharan African MPs have the lowest regional average age at 49 with Arab countries the highest at 55.
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