We are two weeks into the electoral campaign and still have three weeks to go.
Monday is day 15 of the campaign. See what happened on the campaign trail throughout the day in our live blog below.
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As it happened
What happened today on the campaign trail?
8.58pm 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:
- Robert Abela and Bernard Grech will debate each other on national TV on March 23, in a debate organised by the Broadcasting Authority. Abela, Grech and other party leaders will also debate each other this Thursday at University;
- The Labour Party unveiled proposals for business owners;
- The PN fleshed out its proposals for teachers and students;
- The ADPD outlined how it would change party financing laws;
- A court ruled that a legal challenge to a gender balancing mechanism for parliament can proceed.
Abela admits post-2013 mistakes
8.44pm Meanwhile, in Marsaxlokk Robert Abela acknowledged that "some" of the problems that led to Malta being greylisted came after 2013.
It's an obvious statement to anyone not wearing partisan blinkers, but a rather rare admission to hear at a Labour Party event.
Abela also pitched a proposal intended to get businesses to hire more women over 40: a Labour government will pay up to €6,000 of such workers' salary for up to three years, he said.
Read our full story.
Grech's admission: 'PN stances could have cost us votes'
8.30pm Earlier, we noted Bernard Grech's somewhat odd comparison of Labour voters to sick patients.
That's not all he said on the evening, though: the PN leader also acknowledged that the PN's stances on issues such as divorce and, more recently, cannabis, could have cost the party young votes.
But, the party leader said, the PN adopts stances based on principles.
Read more here.
Women's lobby launches its 'femifesto'
7.33pm An umbrella group of women's rights organisations has 30 proposals it would like political parties to adopt.
“We are calling all political parties to be clear about their objectives on issues related to equality between women and men,” the Malta Women's Lobby said.
They're calling their book of proposals a 'femifesto', to distinguish it from the more traditional manifesto.
More about their proposals here.
Grech compares voting Labour to needing a doctor
7.22pm A couple of heavy-handed jokes by Bernard Grech tonight, when he was asked about the Pope’s visit to Malta.
“If Labour wins, we’ll need him to come even more,” Grech said to laughter from the PN crowd. “We believe a doctor comes because the patient needs him.”
Grech was asked if he agreed with Sunday Times of Malta columnist Kristina Chetcuti, who argued that the Pope should skip his April 2 visit to the country.
After those two wisecracks, the PN leader said that he believed the Pope should indeed visit Malta, but that his major concern was that Robert Abela was using the prospect of the papal visit as a “feel-good factor” in the run-up to the election.
Labour Party event begins
7.08pm Robert Abela is in Marsaxlokk this evening.
Watch it in the video below.
Who’s running for a seat in parliament?
6.54pm The numbers are in: PN has 70 candidates running for office, with Labour just one less.
Conservative party ABBA is the third party fielding the most candidates (28), and as we reported earlier today, it’s a motley crew.
Want to know more about how the candidate lists break down? Have a read of our full story.
Environment minister 'gets us', say hunters
6.30pm There was a time in the not-too-distant past when Malta’s environment minister was extremely uneasy about being seen as laying out the red carpet for hunters and trappers.
But it seems Aaron Farrugia no longer has any qualms about cosying up to the hunting lobby.
Here’s the minister sharing an endorsement by the president of hunters’ federation FKNK.
“To keep practicing this hobby in a sustainable manner, we need people who get us. Aaron is one of those people,” Lukas Micallef is quoted as saying.
And here’s a clip from Labour media channel ONE, noting that the party “consulted several times” with the FKNK while drafting its manifesto.
Did all special interest groups get such that sort of access?
Bernard Grech in Birkirkara
6.22pm The PN is hosting an event in Birkirkara this evening. Watch it in the video below.
Where are the leaders tonight?
5.57pm Malta’s two major parties resume their daily evening events today.
Robert Abela will be speaking in Marsaxlokk (start 6.30pm) while Bernard Grech is scheduled to appear in Birkirkara (start 6.15pm).
University debate this Thursday
5.10pm Students at the University of Malta have received an email inviting them to this campaign’s general election debate.
It will be held this coming Thursday at 12pm, with a student as a moderator.
Strangely, the email makes no mention of who will be debating who. It just says that it will feature “representatives from the political parties fielding candidates.”
But sources assure us that party leaders will be there.
Seating is tight and limited to University and Junior College students. If that’s you, you’ll have to register through the University’s eSIMS portal as of 12pm tomorrow. A vaccine certificate is mandatory.
Lord, forgive my assets for they have sinned
5pm As you are no doubt aware, Konrad Mizzi has swapped public policy for public piety.
We mentioned that his religious turn has inspired the meme-makers in a blog entry this morning. Here are a few more, if that's your sort of thing.
State financing for political parties?
3.54pm One of the ADPD’s election rallying cries is to fix Malta's broken system of party financing.
Both Labour and the PN are guilty of countless financing sins (see here, here or here for examples), and it’s no surprise that there seems to be an informal bipartisan agreement to never discuss the issue, lest they kill the golden goose.
- To reform the Electoral Commission and stop it from being divvied up between the PL and PN
- A limit on donations to €5,000 per person per year (it’s current €25,000)
- Companies owned by political parties to be regulated under party financing laws
- Political parties to be required to declare any loans
“Those who speak about good governance need to lead by example,” ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said. “Other people face serious consequences for not paying their taxes, while PLPN don’t pay millions and it’s as though nothing happened.”
Cacopardo also noted another quirk in Maltese political history: back when the PN was in power, Labour had pitched a state financing plan but had it rejected by the government.
Now that the tables have turned, it’s the PN that wants state financing and Labour that is saying no.
More about the ADPD and its ideas here.
Some PN theatre
3pm The PN has put out the second video in its Ħerġin series, which seeks to introduce voters to its various candidates and their life stories. The first episode is here.
Episode 2 features anything from Julie Zahra (districts 4 and 8) singing the national anthem to Robert Cutajar (district 12 ) talking about his daughter's moment of glory on Malta's Got Talent.
And if you make it to the end, you’ll see an emotional Bernard Grech recounting how he and his family learnt that Karin Grech (his cousin) had been murdered - as well as footage from his wedding.
Female candidates talk it out
2.28pm Do you know what Sandra Gauci (ADPD, districts 6 and 12), Rebekah Cilia (PN, districts 7 and 11) or Katya De Giovanni (Labour, districts 4 and 6) stand for?
The three women candidates are among the panellists in a debate that begins any minute now. It’s organised by BPW Malta, with Marisa Xuereb and Stephanie Falzon as moderators.
They’ll be joined by the more familiar Julia Farrugia Portelli (Labour, districts 5 and 7) and Claudette Buttigieg (PN, districts 12 and 13).
Watch it in the video below.
Volt's favours-for-votes pledge
1.38pm Volt Malta wants electoral candidates to make a public pledge to not indulge in favours-for-votes.
The progressive party is inviting candidates from all parties to sign up to its ‘honest politics’ pledge, which includes three promises:
- I pledge to not give favours in exchange for votes.
- I pledge to not give favours indirectly through any government institutions in exchange for votes.
- I pledge to not give favours indirectly through any friends/partners in the private sector in exchange for votes.
Volt’s two candidates – Alexia Debono (districts 8 and 9) and Thomas ‘Kass’ Mallia (districts 10 and 11) – have signed the pledge, which is available online.
Earlier this year, Labour MP Oliver Scicluna had gone public with his irritation at the clientelism that plagues local politics. His outburst was met by deafening silence by his colleagues in the PL and PN.
Meet the women candidates
1.28pm That gender balancing mechanism we wrote about in the previous post will kick in during this election, meaning Malta’s next parliament is likely to be a much more equal affair than previous ones.
That makes a series of debates between female candidates being organised by BPW Valletta especially relevant.
The second debate in the series will begin at 2.15pm and will feature five candidates representing Labour, PN and ADPD. We will share a live link when it begins.
While you wait for that one, why not check out the first debate in the series? It featured Graziella Attard Previ (PN), Josianne Cardona Gatt (PN), Davina Sammut Hili (Labour), Amanda Spiteri Grech (Labour) and non-binary candidate Mina Tolu (ADPD).
Cassola's significant court victory
1.15pm Here’s an important one from the law courts, which we mentioned earlier: a challenge to parliament’s gender balancing mechanism has been given the OK to move forward.
Arnold Cassola, the independent candidate running on districts 10 and 11, believes the mechanism is totally discriminatory as it only kicks in if two parties are elected into parliament.
That makes it very difficult for outsiders like himself to recruit female candidates to run with him, he has noted.
The State Advocate had sought to get Cassola’s bid dismissed before it could be heard. But an appeals court is not having it, and has said the case can proceed.
Grech makes his University pitch
12.14pm Last week, Bernard Grech showed off his football skills and gamer cred while visiting sixth formers at Junior College.
Today, the PN leader and his wife Annemarie took a stroll on the University campus, chatting with students and pitching some of the party’s proposals to them.
"Last week I announced a proposal which could be beneficial for you," he told a nursing student wearing a hospital uniform. "It will give you the opportunity to further your studies while you work."
"We really need that, it would be really good," the student replied.
"Our new economic sectors will open up a world of opportunities for you," he told another student.
Some encounters flowed naturally for the PN leader. Others felt a bit more awkward.
It didn’t help that he was being followed by a gaggle of reporters and younger PN candidates.
"Don't be shy," he jokingly told the more reticent ones.
The live feed cut off when the group stopped for coffee in the quad.
Are you at hospital or a home for the elderly?
12pm The Electoral Commission has issued voting instructions for hospital patients and elderly homes residents.
- Saint Vincent de Paul Residence and 34 homes for the elderly:
Those registered as voters at these homes, and those who are listed as residents there until this Saturday, will be able to cast their votes on March 19 between 7am and 10pm.
Those in possession of the voting documents of these residents should hand them over to the voters by not later than noon of March 18. They will not be allowed in these homes on March 19.
- Gozo General, Mater Dei, Karin Grech and Mount Carmel hospitals:
Those registered as in-patients recovering in these hospitals as at 6pm of March 21, can vote there on March 24 between 7am and 10pm. They should make sure they are in possession of the document by March 20.
PL's electoral promises for businesses
11.45am Abela has announced a series of electoral pledges targeting businesses:
- The right to a basic bank account for businesses and self-employed will be enshrined in the law.
- A review office to speed up business loan approvals.
- Centralised due diligence processes to reduce red tape.
- Cover up to 30% of the investment on fixed capital in specific areas and an additional 10% for Gozitan businesses.
- Businesses creating green jobs will be eligible for tax credits on salaries.
- Creation of a legal framework for startups including financial incentives and a private equity fund.
11.35am Over the past two weeks, several motorists have complained of additional traffic caused by electoral events.
This morning a reader sent us photos of a tent he said was set up in Żabbar early on Sunday, and which is expected to remain there until tomorrow.
Erected close to the main church building, the tent has blocked traffic access into the village through a main road, he explained.
Abela is scheduled to address party supporters in Żabbar tomorrow, and Grech held an event there on Friday.
A spokesperson told us the tent set up for the PN event was dismantled soon after.
Abela addresses the media at the Rialto
11.10am While Grech is still addressing his own press conference, the PL press conference has kicked off. You can follow live here:
PN promises increased stipends for volunteers, €500 travel grant
10.40am Grech has listed a series of pledges, reiterating that a PN government is willing to improve educators' salaries, continuous training, and work-life balance. He had already promised some of these in past events:
- Open a specialised secondary school every year.
- Kick off an apprenticeship excellence programme in collaboration with company owners who will receive 200% of their investment in fiscal credits.
- Cover up to 35% of the salary of successful apprentices.
- Tax breaks on extra-curricular activities and an additional €300 grant to fund youth’s sports, performing arts, arts, and cultural activities after school hours.
- 25% increase of students' maintenance grants.
- An additional 25%increase for those who do voluntary work.
- €500 grant to youths aged between 16 and 21 to cover expenses of travel that is linked to sports or cultural events.
PN, PL morning press conferences
10.20am The PN press conference has kicked off. You can follow here:
Meanwhile, Abela will be addressing the media at the Rialto, in Cospicua, at 11am.
Cassola wins appeal on gender quota mechanism
9.50am Cassola has declared winning a Constitutional Court appeal on his challenge of the gender quota mechanism.
Last year Cassola had filed a constitutional case against the government, challenging the mechanism approved by parliament in 2021. This mechanism should ensure gender parity in parliament if no more than two parties are elected.
A civil court had turned down Cassola's case, but this morning the Constitutional Court deemed the independent candidate to have a direct interest in the quota mechanism.
We'll provide you with more information about the case as soon as we have it.
PN, PL leaders to debate on March 23
9.35am The broadcasting authority has just announced a debate between Abela and Grech, which will take place on March 23, closing off this electoral campaign's series of debates on the national broadcaster.
The first two in the series will be broadcast tomorrow and Wednesday on TVM: one themed Malta Flimkien and the other one Miegħek. Għal Malta, in line with the two main parties' slogans. Two PN and two PL spokespeople will be participating in these two debates.
Meanwhile, the PN has issued a press call for a 10.15am conference for today which will be held at the party's headquarters in Pieta.
Will Abela accept the nurses' invitation?
9.25am Last week we reported on how Abela ducked journalists' questions for days.
The nurses' union has just informed us that despite inviting both Grech and Abela to a visit to its new premises in Qormi tomorrow, only the PN leader had confirmed his attendance.
Konrad Mizzi's discovery of God inspires memes
9am As expected, the political campaigning continued, and at times intensified, throughout the weekend.
One former PL minister, who will not be contesting the upcoming election, still gave the electorate lots to talk about. Konrad Mizzi on Saturday said that over the past two years, God had become a central part of his life.
For two days, the Internet just kept giving.
Cassola's environmentally-friendly banners, leaflets
8.50am Independent candidate Arnold Cassolla has added his own banner to that of the two main parties on major roads.
He promises that once the campaign is over, he will collect the banners and cable ties and send them for recycling.
Motorists might spot one of the five green posters on St Andrew's Road, near the Skatepark roundabout, at the Ferries in Sliema, and also in Mosta and Attard.
In keeping up his efforts to minimise the impact on the environment as much as possible, Cassola has also invested in a digital billboard instead of a printed one. It was set up on Tal-Balal Road, off Għargħur. Additionally, leaflets promoting the candidate are printed on 100% recycled paper.
Debates among female candidates
8.40am We are reminded that the second in a series of four debates among female candidates is being held today at 2.30pm at Malta Fairs and Conventions Center in Ta’Qali.
Today's 1.5hour debate, organised by the Malta branch of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, will feature ADPD candidate Sandra Gauci, PL candidates Julia Farrugia Portelli and Alicia Bugeja Said and PN candidates Claudette Buttigieg and Rebekah Cilia.
Today's agenda so far
8.30am Good morning and welcome to our live blog on the fifteenth day of the electoral campaign.
Following his visit to Junior College in Msida last week, PN leader Bernard Grech is today expected to meet University of Malta students at around 11.30am.
He is also scheduled to address party supporters at 6pm in Birkirkara.
Prime Minister Robert Abela is meanwhile expected to be interviewed during a PL activity at 6.30pm in Marsaxlokk.
We'll keep you updated with any other events throughout the day.