Updated 6.20 pm 

Ninety-nine people have switched their current address to that of a government housing block in Siġġiewi this month as they wait to move into it, but the Nationalist Party is not happy about it and is asking court to reverse their registered addresses.

The huge, newly constructed housing block in Mdina Street is still being finished and is yet to welcome its first of the 99 residents, the PN said.

But the soon-to-be tenants have already switched their registered address to their new home and the party fears this is an election move by the PL to usher in a wave of new Labour voters in Siġġiewi ahead of the local council election in June.

On Friday morning, the PN filed 99 court applications – one for each resident – informing the court that their address is vacant and that the apartments are not yet habitable, and asked the court to switch the residents’ addresses back to their current homes.

Mark Laurence Zammit visits the empty social housing block where 99 people claim to live. Video: Karl Andrew Micallef

Inside an empty flat.Inside an empty flat.

'Government caught gerrymandering'

PN secretary general Michael Piccinino told a press conference outside the law courts that the party had caught the government gerrymandering. 

He explained how the housing block in Siggiewi had no one registered as voters in the March electoral register as this housing block is still under construction.

However, all of sudden, in the electoral register published after the president signed the electoral writ, 99 people were suddenly registered as residents.

"Abuse is not acceptable so we are taking action to prevent it," he said.

Michael Piccinino, secretary general of the PN, addresses a news conference outside court on Friday. Photo: Matthew XuerebMichael Piccinino, secretary general of the PN, addresses a news conference outside court on Friday. Photo: Matthew Xuereb

He added that the request was not to strike these people off the register, since the PN defended people's right to vote, but for them to vote for the council where they were registered before the switch.

Piccino said that a closer look at the freshly-registered people shows that "coincidentally", two-thirds are from the electoral district of Housing Minister Roderick Galdes while half are from Qormi. 

The party cited electoral law, which obliges voters to be registered at addresses where they actually live.

PN sources said they fear the PL was using its power in government to introduce new Labour voters in Siġġiewi and help nudge the local council election there in its favour.

Hotly contested locality

Siġġiewi is a hotly contested locality.

It is among several local councils that have been hanging in the balance since the last round of elections and in which residents are disgruntled and feel that the Labour-led council has performed badly.

It is also one of the localities which the PN is attempting to overturn in June's election.

In the 2019 local council elections, both PN and PL got 2,700 votes in Siġġiewi, but the PL snatched the majority throughout the counting process when more of its candidates inched closer to the quota needed to be elected.

The finishing touches are still being made to the Siġġiewi apartments - but 99 people say they live ther.eThe finishing touches are still being made to the Siġġiewi apartments - but 99 people say they live ther.e

Since then, the PN lost the candidate who garnered the most first-count votes - Alessia Psaila Zammit, wife of former PN MEP candidate Frank Psaila, who moved out of politics.

The PN hopes her 1,139 votes will go to other PN candidates contesting in Siġġiewi.

19 residents already reside in Siġġiewi

Times of Malta is informed, however, that 19 of the residents who switched their address this month were already Siġġiewi residents, meaning they would have voted in the locality anyway, even if their address was not switched.

Times of Malta visited the site after working hours on Thursday and confirmed that while the block is in its finishing stages, the apartments – at least on the ground floor – are clearly empty of all furniture and amenities.

One apartment door was open and publicly accessible, and a quick look inside revealed the flat did not even have interior doors installed yet, and lacked several electricity sockets.

In its court application, the PN said the addresses were published in the government gazette last week and has demanded that the court urgently rules on the address reversals by May 24 – that is, by two weeks before the election – as stipulated by law.

Social housing residents in the process of moving - Labour Party 

In a statement reacting to the news, the Labour Parrty said that the PN was "resorting to old tactics" by casting doubt on the electoral process. 

Without specifically addressing the accusations of gerrymandering, the PL said that people who qualify for social housing could not be expected not to start the process of moving into their new homes. 

The PN, they claimed, has been against this project from day one because they are "classist".

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