We are two weeks into the electoral campaign and still have three weeks to go.
Tuesday is day 16 of the campaign. See what happened on the campaign trail throughout the day in our live blog below.
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What happened today on the campaign trail?
9.06pm. This live blog will end here. We'll be back tomorrow for more updates from the 2022 general election campaign.
Here’s a summary of the day’s most salient events:
- Labour pledged to make contraceptives and the morning-after pill free. The PN and Volt Malta have also made this pledge. The PL also pledged to start screening women for breast cancer at 45, rather than 50.
- The PN promised hunters it would fight for spring hunting and work to "simplify" hunting regulations.
- The entertainment sector was up in arms after Julia Farrugia Portelli mocked PN candidate Julie Zahra by telling her “we’re not singing on a stage here”. Zahra is also a singer.
- Labour and the PN crossed swords over proposals for pensions and ESG-compliant businesses.
- A video of archbishop Charles Scicluna fuming after his car was blocked from exiting Mdina due to a Julia Farrugia Portelli press conference went viral.
PN makes a promise to hunters
8.30pm Over in Żebbuġ, Bernard Grech was scolding the Prime Minister for “not doing his homework” on Ukraine and promising to retain hunting -including spring hunting - if elected into government.
What the PN would do, he said, is "simplify" hunting penalties.
The government announced something similar (albeit with a massive loophole) just a few weeks ago. It’s not clear what Grech makes of those changes - and whether "simplifying" penalties means increasing or reducing them.
You can find more from Grech's speech here.
Labour pledges to extend energy benefit
8.17pm Robert Abela used his speech in Żabbar to promise to extend an energy benefit to “thousands” of additional pensioners.
The energy benefit part-subsidies utility bills for low-income households. To qualify, a claimant has to earn no more than €9,302 per year.
Abela said the PL intends to bump that up by “at least” €2,500, to broaden eligibility for the benefit and render many pensioners eligible for it. Those eligible could have up to €314 a year slashed from their utility bills, he said.
The PM and Labour leader had another pledge, too: an added €200 a year for people aged 75 and up who still live within the community, and free internet for senior citizens who receive a supplementary allowance.
Over in Labour's corner
7.55pm There was a zinger by district 8 candidate Chris Bonett during Labour’s event in Żabbar. He took aim at Bernard Grech coming out as a gamer during a visit to Junior College last week.
“Let's work together so we can tell him the two words that gamers hate the most - game over!" Bonett said, before following through.
"If we keep it up, Bernard Grech will have a lot of time on his hands to play his PlayStation after March 26."
Edwin Vassallo's tour de force
7.46pm There’s just no stopping Edwin Vassallo. The district 7 PN candidate had barely finished speaking at a Żebbuġ event this evening when a statement signed by him and sent out by the PN landed in media inboxes.
The statement takes aim at the €4 million in aid that the government has promised farmers facing spikes in prices. He says it’s just not enough.
“This aid is just a desperate measure during an electoral campaign. It exposes the government’s irresponsibility and lack of planning,” Vassallo said.
To be fair, Prime Minister Robert Abela said this afternoon that the Finance Ministry is preparing additional aid for farmers.
Back to the Żebbuġ event - most of the PN’s seventh district candidates focused on the needs of the district's large community of farmers. Vassallo also stressed that the PN would retain hunting.
Robert Abela's Żabbar event begins
7.12pm The Labour Party leader is all smiles as he greets the crowd.
The event is about to begin. Watch it in the video below.
7pm The video of Abela in the previous post was of a soapbox appearance in Qrendi. He used his minutes there to warn his audience that the PN would run the economy incompetently if it were in charge.
Abela's actual evening event in Żabbar has yet to begin - it appears the party is running slightly behind schedule tonight.
Robert Abela live in Qrendi
6.43pm And now it’s Labour’s turn. Robert Abela is in Żabbar for the party’s evening event. Watch it in the video below.
Bernard Grech live in San Ġwann
6.30pm The PN leader is due to be in Żebbuġ this evening, for an event that's due to begin any minute now.
Watch it live in the video below.
A website metamorphosis
6.01pm The Labour Party's website is back online, and as suspected it's looking very different.
Partitlaburista.org now redirects users to robertabela.mt, an election-themed website with all the electoral bells and whistles you'd expect.
Where are the leaders tonight?
5.45pm As the sun sets on another day on the campaign trail, the focus shifts to the two major parties' evening events.
Robert Abela will be leading a Labour Party discussion event in Żabbar (start: 6.30pm) while Bernard Grech is more central, at a PN event in Żebbuġ (start: 6.30pm).
We will provide live video streams of both, of course.
Silvio Schembri reports death threat to police
5.36pm Silvio Schembri has filed a police report after an idiot wrote on Facebook that he “might find a bomb under your car”.
The comment was posted beneath an article about an electoral press conference Schembri led earlier today.
The minister and Labour candidate (districts 6 and 7) said he does not know the person who wrote the comment and has reported it to the police commissioner.
“These sorts of threats are unacceptable for anyone, whoever they are,” he wrote.
Labour Party website down
5.14pm The Labour Party's website is down, with a notice saying the site is undergoing "scheduled maintenance".
The 'Robert Abela 2022' logo suggests the website is undergoing an electoral facelift. But a Tuesday afternoon in the midst of an electoral campaign is an odd time to take a website offline.
Volt Malta also signed children's manifesto
4.23pm Earlier, we wrote that ADPD was the only party to sign a pledge to involve children in politics.
And, for the sake of completeness, it's also worth noting that a handful of candidates from the two major parties have also signed themselves up. You can see them all on the MFSW Facebook page.
Labour fires back: 'PN promises come with T&Cs'
4.17pm The Labour Party has shot back at the PN's afternoon press conference with fiery response of its own.
“With the PN, there’s always a ‘but’. They make promises, with terms and conditions,” the party says.
That’s a reference to the PN’s promise of tax cuts for ESG-compliant businesses and their talk of private pension funds.
“With the Labour Party you know where you stand. Increased pensions without any burdens and a corporate tax reduction to 25% for everyone.”
ADPD signs children's manifesto
4.04pm ADPD has become the first party to sign up to a children’s manifesto, pledging to give children a greater voice in policymaking.
The manifesto, unveiled last week by the Children’s Rights Observatory Malta, commits prospective MPs to make more space in politics for child participation. All candidates have received a request to sign the declaration. We hadn’t heard of any that had done so, until now.
ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said it was an honour to endose the manifesto, which he described as a source of inspiration.
“Children have a right to a better world than the one we found,” he said.
This drive to involve children in decision-making is no electoral gimmick: just found months ago, children had presented parliament with 99 proposals to include in their parties’ agendas.
Don't cross Ivan Bartolo
3.45pm PN candidate Ivan J Bartolo came out guns blazing for that press conference. He was seething about a Labour claim that PN proposals will add red tape for business owners.
The party is pledging to slash taxes for businesses that conform with ESG standards to 15% on their first €500,000 in profit.
ESG, for those who are unaware, stands for Environment Social Governance. It’s shorthand for a series of non-financial, socially conscious indicators used to assess a business and its operations. Think reducing waste, donating to the local community, publishing your accounts on time, and so on.
Bartolo was apoplectic at the suggestion that the proposal will make life harder for business owners.
"It's an incentive," he fumed. "Achieve the KPIs and your tax will come down."
He went on: “It’s all the additional due diligence caused by greylisting that added red tape, not this. One of the ESG stipulations is to pay taxes on time. So does Labour not want businesses to pay taxes on time?”
PN candidates hold press conference
3.10pm The Nationalist Party has called a press conference at their party headquarters, and it's due to start any minute.
Candidates Jerome Caruana Cilia (district 6) and Ivan J Bartolo (districts 9 and 12) will address it.
Watch it in the video below.
Herrera finds €570,000 for his constituency
2.35pm It's a good day for Josè Herrera and his electoral prospects.
The Culture Minister and Labour district 1 candidate was in Marsa today, where he announced a cool €570,000 in investment for the town. The money will be spent on restoring the parish church, installing CCTV cameras and buying a van for the local council.
Marsa, which is Malta's first capital of culture this year, happens to be one of Herrera's constituencies. Fancy the odds!
Volt wants sex ed for the masses
2.03pm Volt Malta has released its own set of pledges to mark International Women’s Day, and better sex education is right at the top of the list.
The party wants a factual and inclusive sex ed curriculum to be taught in all schools, with public education campaigns for adults.
It also wants contraceptives and the morning-after pill to be free (something we’re now all but guaranteed, with both Labour and PN pledging it) and IUDs introduced as an emergency contraceptive.
And, of course, the party is pushing to legalise abortion up to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with abortion aftercare services also provided.
“If someone in Malta wanted to end their pregnancy in Malta, the law does not allow it. Their options are flying abroad for an abortion (if they can afford it), or having an unsafe abortion in Malta. This is irrational,” the party says.
Volt is fielding two candidates in this election: Alexia Debono on districts 8 and 9, and Thomas 'Kass' Mallia on 10 and 11.
Candidate donates campaign funding
1.43pm Some candidates splurge on coffee mornings. Others go bananas with junk mail.
But Anthony Buttigieg (ADPD, districts 1 and 10) has decided to do something different with his campaign funds: donate them to help Ukrainian refugees.
“The vast majority of refugees from Ukraine are women and their children,” writes the ADPD candidate (districts 1 and 10) on Women's Day.
“I have just donated the funds I had allocated for my election campaign to SOS Malta who are helping with those refugees arriving in Romania.”
Buttigieg has said he does not want any donations, but has encouraged anyone inspired by the gesture to donate to SOS Malta.
GWU hands Abela its election wishlist
1.32pm Robert Abela has promised the General Workers Union that the Labour Party has its back.
“In the past years you knew where you stood with us and this won’t change if PL is back in government,” he told top union officials.
“The party I lead and the Union you work within were both forged in the same fires for the same cause.”
Abela was meeting with GWU officials in Valletta, with Clyde Caruana and Glenn Bedingfield also in tow.
The GWU handed the prime minister a document containing their election wishlist. GWU general secretary Josef Bugeja said it touches on things like a new employment policy, the road after greylisting, and the importance of investing in training and reskilling schemes.
The press was only allowed inside the room for the first few minutes of the meeting and was not given a copy of the GWU document.
Cassola: TVM censored me
1.15pm Arnold Cassola won an important court victory yesterday, receiving the judicial go-ahead to challenge a gender balancing mechanism for parliament. The mechanism will kick in from this election onward.
An important ruling, then. But not quite important enough to make the national news bulletin, as there was no mention of it on TVM.
Cassola, an independent candidate running on districts 10 and 11, says he finds that strange, as a TVM journalist had contacted him about it during the day.
“It seems that the PBS Head of News [Norma Saliba] censored this news item,” he said in a statement.
What makes it even stranger, he notes, is that TVM had reported the initial ruling, which went against him, “very prominently”.
If Cassola is hoping for a PBS explanation, he shouldn't hold his breath: a court was unable to get a straight answer from multiple PBS officials testifying last week.
Holding up his Grace
1pm Meanwhile, Archbishop Charles Scicluna appeared none too pleased to be stuck in Mdina yesterday, unable to get out, because of a Julia Farrugia Portelli press conference.
Farrugia Portelli’s team set her up smack bang at the entrance to the Silent City, and cars were not allowed in or out as she delivered her address.
One of those cars was Scicluna's, and the archbishop was caught on camera gesticulating and speaking to a member of Farrugia Portelli’s entourage, who arranged for the cars to get through.
Labour promises women free contraceptives
12.46pm The Labour Party is promising women free contraceptives, free tampons in schools and a broader breast cancer screening programme.
The three proposals were unveiled by party president Ramona Attard a short while ago. They are:
- To start screening women for breast cancer at the age of 45, rather than the current 50;
- To provide the contraceptive pill, morning-after pill and IUDs for free at health centres and pharmacies;
- To hand out free tampons at schools, to help reduce stigma surrounding menstruation.
Both large parties have now promised free contraceptives to women: the PN had made a similar pledge last October.
Read more about the Labour proposals here.
Julia vs Julie
12.34pm Bernard Grech has criticised Labour’s Julia Farrugia Portelli for mocking Julie Zahra’s singing background.
Farrugia Portelli took a dig at the PN candidate during a TVM discussion show yesterday evening, telling Zahra “we’re not singing on a stage here.”
Zahra shot back, telling her to not ridicule artists.
“I was not making fun of the artist,” Farrugia Portelli responded.
“Then why mention it? Why did you say it is like I am on a stage singing? Did I say anything because you were a journalist? No, then respect me,” Zahra said.
Grech has now waded into the fray, saying that it’s “shameful” to hear such comments in 2022.
“Does she only see her as a singer, not for her other qualities?” he said during a Women’s Day event.
Give women in politics a fair chance - ADPD
Candidate Sandra Gauci said that a lot needed to be done to protect women and including femicide in the law “is just the tip of the iceberg”.
She said a shift in mentality is needed and Malta was, unfortunately, too far behind in many spheres when it came to gender equality, including in political representation.
Candidate Melissa Bagley noted that 75% of candidates in the forthcoming election are men.
Party chairman Carmel Cacopardi emphasised that changes are needed in Malta’s electoral system to ensure that all women are given a fair chance at being represented in parliament.
PM meeting GWU representatives
11.18am We have just been informed that Robert Abela will be meeting representatives of the General Workers Union at 12.15pm. The media have been invited to the first part of the meeting.
PN sneaking a hike in taxes?
10.41am Economy Minister Silvio Schembri told the press conference we told you about earlier that he was “exposing” how the PN was proposing an increase in the social security contributions paid by workers.
Reading from the PN’s electoral manifesto, Schembri said proposal 12 says that “for pensions to remain sustainable, the private sector must build a new fund for pensions in the country”.
This, he said, was a rehash of PN proposal from the 2017 election race which would have translated into an increase in social security contributions.
Schembri accused PN leader Bernard Grech of trying to sneak this into his manifesto without properly explaining it to the public.
“Why isn’t the PN being clear on this proposal? Why is it hiding away from explaining it?” he asked.
PN celebrating Women's Day
10.32am The Nationalist Party is celebrating Women's Day with a special programme at the Xara Lodge in Rabat.
Follow live below
PL press conference
10.15am Economy Minister Silvio Schembri and MP Jonathan Attard are currently giving a news conference.
Watch it live in the video below.
'A gift to Maltese women'
9.20am Independent candidate Arnold Cassola said in a statement that Monday's court decision which established that he can challenge a gender balancing mechanism was "a gift to Maltese women on International Women's day".
"The PN and the PL had concocted between them a plan to consolidate their grip over the Maltese parliament, by ensuring that they each get an extra six women MPs each," Cassola said.
In reality, the gender corrective mechanism favours only PL and PN women and excludes all other independent-minded Maltese women from benefiting from the co-option mechanism" he said.
9am Good morning and welcome to our live blog on the 16th day of the electoral campaign.
We have not yet been informed of any Labour Party election campaign events this morning but Prime Minister Robert Abela will in the evening speak in Żabbar.
PN leader Bernard Grech will be visiting the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses new premises in Qormi at 10am. In the evening, he will be addressing an event at Żebbuġ.
Also starting today will be the Broadcasting Authority's political broadcasts.
A one-hour debate on the theme 'Malta Together' will be broadcast on TVM and Radio Malta at 8.45pm.
Miriam Dalli and Rebecca Buttigieg will be representing the Labour Party and Claudette Buttigieg and Joseph Grech will be representing the Nationalist Party.