The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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He turns 16 today, aiming to follow in footsteps of grandfather, mother

Sabrina Zammit Sunday, 3 March 2024, 09:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Izak Catania De Giovanni, grandson to first Fgura mayor Anthony De Giovanni and son of Labour MP Katya De Giovanni, is seeking to follow in their footsteps as he will be contesting the local council election, possibly to aim for higher targets later. Izak and Katya speak to The Malta Independent on Sunday on how his candidacy came about, what his aspirations are, and how the family is supporting the youngster

Izak Catania De Giovanni celebrates his 16th birthday today, making him eligible to contest June’s local council election, with the possibility of becoming a mayor too, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Anthony, who was elected as Fgura’s first mayor in 1993, and those of his mother, Labour MP Katya De Giovanni.

In a joint interview with his mother, Izak insists that his priority is still to continue his studies, but he would like to take his chances in politics too.

"It's a new experience," he said, as Katya nods in approval. Being raised in a family with deep roots in politics it was not difficult for him to be attracted. Katya said that her son used to accompany her during her parliamentary sittings, where Izak took the opportunity to converse with other MPs on several subjects.

She said that one day when he was 13 years old and she was preparing to contest the general election, he sat down next to her as she was following the budget speech. "I thought he was going to follow for maybe a quarter of an hour. But he sat there from beginning to end, three whole hours together with the press conferences, and he didn't move from next to me," she said.

She said that his political interest is ingrained and that he is very attentive to what is happening in the community of Fgura, where he will be contesting as a PL candidate.

Katya said that she was first approached by Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Alison Zerafa Civelli, who asked whether Izak would be interested to contest the local council elections. She said that despite knowing that her son would be busy with his O-levels at the time, she asked him "because it was his decision to make. I told him that I was not going to interfere in such a decision".

She added that then he took an interest and started the application process to become a candidate.

Izak said that when he was called to the PL headquarters, he said he was asked what he was offering and why he wanted to contest. What he told them was convincing enough for him to be accepted.

Katya said that Izak was recommended as a candidate by Zerafa Civelli, Labour Party CEO and MP Randolph Debattista and PL MP Romilda Baldacchino Zarb.

"By the standards of the party, to be nominated by three Members of Parliament, it is something substantial,” she said, adding that she was surprised to see how much the party believed in him.

Like any mother, Katya has her concerns, “especially when it comes to political bickering,” but she is sure that his determination will see him overcome the challenges he will have to face, if elected at such a young age.

Izak said that because of his age, there are people who tell him that he is not experienced enough. However, he said that "they do not know this because they never met with me; they have never heard me speak".

Izak said that his "first priority is my O levels", but he is ready to make public speeches if required.  Katya said in Malta there is a lot of pressure "on the academic aspect", and as such her son needs to focus on these exams, which will open the gateway to further educational advancement.

Izak does not believe that his mother being an MP will give him an advantage over other candidates.

"I don’t think so," he said. He said that the fact that his mother is a politician might have put him in the right place at the right time but he said that despite this "the age factor is still there, so it’s not really an advantage".

His mother said having a parent who is in politics comes with its own set of advantages, such as people recognising the surname. She said that this helps especially on the ballot sheet, given the surname De Giovanni.

"De Giovanni in Fgura is accompanied by tradition, (my father) was the first mayor, I also contested on the same district, people know us, and my parents have been living in Fgura for 50 years, and Izak used to also spend a lot of time with them whilst I was working," Katya said.

Being in politics means you get respect from some, but not from others.

"It is a double-edged sword, in reality," Katya said. "Bad press is still good press," she said. The worst for a politician is being ignored; when they are criticised or spoken about even in bad light, they are getting exposure anyway.  

Asked about a Labour councillor, Kaylocke Buhagiar, who has decided to leave the PL and contest as an independent candidate, Izak said that he has still to experience being elected on the PL ticket; however he said that it seems being “independent” is a new trend.

"They don’t want to be on one side (with reference to political parties) or the other, they want to contest independently, which is good," he said.

He said he did not pick the PL simply because of his family ties. Izak said he chose the Labour Party because of the work it has carried out, such as by allowing minors to contest the local council elections (with also the possibility of becoming mayors).

"I didn't witness the PN working for Vote16, with all due respect," he said. He said that his party choice had nothing to do with his own family's history within the party, but rather felt that the Labour Party is the "best in all ways".

Would Katya have accepted Izak to contest with the PN? She said that he has "every right to do so", although she would have also discussed it with him. The MP said that the only scenario in which she would have had a problem would have been if he had chosen to contest with a far right party. "That would have been a big issue," she said.

She said that there are members of her family who support the PN, but her father was the first to contest with the Labour Party.

"As a family we are very tolerant and we are also very auto-critical when it comes to the party itself, something which we are also known for within the ranks of the party," she said.

Katya said that many topics are discussed in the home, even ones like abortion, about which she said she is personally very sceptic.

On his end, Izak said that he is not neutral on the subject. Asked why he has adopted this position on the subject he said that the decision to have an abortion should not be casual.

"If you have a woman who is (physically) sick and needs to get rid of the baby, then yes," he said.

Does this classification of 'sick' also include mental illnesses when it comes to abortion? "I don't think so, no," he said. Asked to explain, he said that "I know that mental health is as important as physical health, but not in this aspect".

"If you have a depression, you can still take care of a foetus," he said.

Asked about his chances of being elected mayor, Izak said that “in life it is important to have a balance". He said that in every case scenario his education will always come first, as even if he is elected mayor he would ask for help from the Fgura councillors.

"I'm such a team player that if elected as a mayor I would include everyone", he said.

Katya, a psychologist by profession, said that the generation of children today has experiences that older generations did not have. She said “the values that come from his father's side are different from those values that I bring from my side. We are maybe more politically oriented, whilst the other side (Izak's father's side) is maybe more business oriented".

She said that her son was able to adapt himself "to both worlds”. She said that she noticed the same thing in other children and that to a certain extent the youths of today "have had to make compromises, had to grow much faster than (we had to at their age)". She said that personally she never had to balance two worlds "and that is no easy task".

"More than becoming a mayor, I would like to be elected as a councillor," he said. Izak said that given that he is also in the chance of being elected as a mayor, he would likely renounce this position and take a lower role within the council. He said that this is because at his age education will always come first. Izak said that he would still be able to contribute his ideas.

He said that he is currently studying for his exams but has a very strong support system. Knowing what it takes for a good campaign, he said that his mother has already offered to help him with his door-to-door meetings. Moreover, he said that his friends will also help him with his campaign branding.

Asked about the contrast of having 16-year-old who can become mayors but still cannot drive, Izak said that nowadays, public transport is free and that has no problems with using it when needed.

Katya said that until one is elected, or has experience in contesting an election, one cannot know what it’s all about. Referring to her own experience in the general election, she said that she had a very different idea of how parliament works, before finding herself working in it.

"Nowadays, anyone who asks me (how parliament works), I can tell them how sometimes parliament is interesting, especially the committees, but I'm sorry to say that sometimes it is also boring," she said.

Asked whether she fears that due their age 16-year-old councillors and mayors might not be taken seriously, Katya said there is a need for “a change in culture. I do not agree that we should have a whole (local) council composed of 16-year-olds, but we should include representation," she said.

Being elected as a councillor will open up avenues in politics for Izak, but it all depends on the results, he said. Politics, after all, is not everything. He said that apart from being a student he is also a DJ and would like to succeed in this area too. However, he said that he cannot exclude pursuing a political career.

His priorities, if elected, will be to bring in more technology in people’s lives. Izak said that he got inspired from the Artificial Intelligence traffic system which was by Professor Alexei Dingli a few weeks ago. He said, for example, that he would like to integrate the digital traffic brain system in Fgura, making it the first locality in Malta to use it.

The second priority for Izak is the fixing the local playing field. He said that as current plans stand, there is a lot of wasted space which could be better used.

He also said that as a local council, Fgura should also strive to deliver more education on littering and its consequences on the community.

He agrees that local councils have had their powers curtailed in recent years, adding that the situation should change.

"It is one of the main areas on which we should work on," he said, whilst adding that local councils should become more independent from the party and whoever is in government.

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