Rules are being finalised to prepare the country for a general election during COVID-19, including protocols for ‘managed’ mass meetings, the possibility of extending voting day, and limited access to the normally jam-packed counting hall.
The plan is being drafted by Chief Electoral Commissioner Joe Camilleri together with political party representatives and Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci.
A final version of the proposals will be presented to the commission shortly.
Times of Malta is informed that the voting process will remain the same but be “somewhat slower”, due to capping on the number of people allowed into voting stations.
Special protocols are being drafted for the elderly and vulnerable.
Health authorities are still discussing how those who have the virus and those in mandatory quarantine will be able to vote.
The authorities are also understood to be keen on restricting the number of people allowed into the counting hall.
“Having crowds falling over each other and smashing on the Perspex isn’t ideal, given the pandemic situation,” a source privy to the details of the proposals said.
Repatriation flights, which see taxpayers fund travel arrangements back to the island for voters overseas, will be held as normal.
Voting process will be the same but somewhat slower
However, discussions are ongoing over what would happen for those travelling from restricted zones.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the democratic process across the world. According to International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, between 2020 and last September, at least 79 countries and territories decided to postpone national and sub-national elections due to COVID-19.
On the other hand, more than a hundred elections and referenda were held despite the virus’ impact, proving that polls can still open during a pandemic.
Talk of a November or December election started earlier this year, when sources within government said that one faction inside Castille is urging Abela to go to the polls before the year ends.
This, sources said, is advisable because of favourable survey numbers for Labour, positive reactions to the budget, a successful vaccine rollout and the post-pandemic economic recovery.
It would also steer clear of the repercussions of Malta’s greylisting and economic uncertainties that the new year may bring.
However, others who have Abela’s ear are said to be in favour of an election in the first quarter of 2022. Labour’s term comes to an end in June 2022.