Party leaders crisscrossed the island on Wednesday, the third day of the electoral campaign.
Here’s a round-up:
- Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted the government’s decision to drop plans for a yacht marina in Marsascala was ‘permanent’;
- Bernard Grech took credit for the ‘government u-turn’ in dropping the marina project, also praising civil society for its efforts;
- Grech visited Gozo and promised a new Mcast campus there, as well as a branch office of Malta Enterprise, cancer treatment in Gozo, a bigger harbour and two new ferries;
- The prime minister promised that all first-time house buyers will be granted €10,000 over 10 years, irrespective of income;
- Abela said talks between the government and Steward Health Care about their concession agreement are at a standstill, with no talks currently underway;
- The finance minister said cheques to all workers and pensioners as part of a government stimulus package, are about to be mailed.
- Grech said motorists who commit a contravention will have their fine waived if they do not carry out another offence within six months.
The smaller parties also had their say.
- ADPD hit out at the parties for promising a tunnel to Gozo and "an airport" on the sister island, saying the idea is "crazy" for such a small, over-built island where distances are short;
- The Green party described the government's decision to scrap the Marsascala yacht marina as a vote-cathing exercise;
- Independent candidate Arnold Cassola presented a four-page letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela on the "filthy" scandals he said are taking place at Transport Malta.
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As it happened
8.38pm Live blog ends. That's all from us today. We'll be back tomorrow to give you more 2022 election updates, as they happen. Thank you for having joined us.
Grech: Traffic contraventions will be 'forgiven' if offence is not repeated in six months
7.43pm Speaking in Ħamrun, PN leader Bernard Grech says the people's welfare is at the heart of PN policies. He reiterates PN promises to create more economic activity and promises more government spending on law and order. Laws, he said, should be there to deter crime but a PN government would also reward those who kept on the right side of the law, whether individuals, companies or associations.
Those who committed a traffic contravention, such as parking badly or causing an obstruction would be encouraged not to repeat their mistake. A new digital system would 'freeze' that fine for six months and if there was no repeat offence, that fine would be 'forgiven' Grech said.
Big crowd for Robert Abela event in Mellieħa
6.44pm A big crowd of Labour Party supporters has turned up in Mellieħa, to listen to Abela. It is a noisy event, with our reporter saying he cannot hear himself speak.
In his address, Abela underscores Labour's commitment to better living standards, with a particular emphasis on higher pensions, cheaper utilities despite soaring prices abroad, and easier access to medicines. And he stresses that underlying Labour's promises is the sustainability of government finances.
“We are the future and we will continue reducing taxes, with those who benefit most being those who earn least,” Abela says.
The prime minister spoke for 20 minutes and appeared to be losing his voice at the end... not a good at the start of an electoral campaign.
De Marco: I intend to continue to be of service to you
6.15pm The main event of the Nationalist Party this evening is a 'meet the candidates of the first district' event. It is being held near the former Lyceum in Ħamrun.
One of the speakers is MP and former deputy leader Mario de Marco, who stresses that he is, and will remain, with the people, for a better future for Malta.
"There is no bigger honour than to serve this country and this district and I intend to continue to be of service to you," he says.
His comments were an obvious reaction to social media calls for all party veterans to stand down. De Marco thanks Claudio Grech, a former candidate on this district, who, he says, will still continue to work for the party, and former parliamentary secretary Antoine Mifsud Bonnici, who represented the district in parliament for many years.
The PN candidates on the first district are Darren Carabott, Josianne Cardona Gatt, Mario de Marco, James Aaron Ellul, Christian Micallef, Paula Mifsud Bonnici and Justin Schembri.
Bernard Grech stops briefly in Sta Luċija
6.15pm The PN leader makes a short speech at Sta Lucija, highlighting the PN's proposals for job creation, commitment to the environment and a better working environment. He also urges supporters to attend a mass rally in Żurrieq on Sunday afternoon.
A Gozo tunnel and airport: Do you know what you’re saying?
6pm Carmel Cacopardo, leader of ADPD has lambasted both major political parties for promising to build a tunnel to Gozo and an airport on the sister island.
“Isn’t it ever enough, despite the recent introduction of the fast ferry service, which can be improved? Why have a tunnel and an airport on such a tiny island. Do you know what you’re saying? This is crazy!” Caccopardo said in a statement," addressing himself to the other party leaders.
"Let us all acknowledge that we live in a small, over-built country with limited space, a country with small distances, even between Malta and Gozo," he added.
Bernard Grech's priorities
5.49pm The PN leader has popped up in Kalkara. He lists his priorities if he is elected on March 26.
From his "first hour", he'll work on removing Malta from an international anti-money laundering grey list. And he'll promote jobs that respect the environment. We'll hear again from him later, in a much larger event in Ħamrun.
Love across the barricades
5.05pm Former political rivals Clyde Puli and Roderick Galdes have been exchanging kind words, now that the former has withdrawn from the hustings. It turns out that they have much in common. Not only are they both former mayors of Qormi, they even married on the same day (though in different years).
Galdes took to Facebook to thank Puli for his service and to wish him well for the future. “After all, we are both Maltese and Qormi brothers,” he said. Puli said they may have had different political views, but they had criticised each other decently and respectfully.
Will Abela be called away?
5.03pm A dilemma presents itself. EU leaders have been called to Brussels for an emergency meeting tomorrow night to discuss escalating Russia-Ukraine tensions. Robert Abela was due to be at a campaign event in Birżebbuġa tomorrow. What will he decide?
A cheque... in the middle of a campaign
4.34pm Remember the €100 cheques government promised earlier this month to help people with the soaring cost of living? Well Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has just announced they'll be arriving in letterboxes in the next few days. Expect questions from critics about whether it's appropriate for government cheques to arrive in the middle of an election campaign.
A 'new' Gozo branch?
4.01pm Earlier today the PN pledged to open a Malta Enterprise unit in Gozo to support direct investment to businesses on the island. But Enterprise Minister Miriam Dalli says there has been a Gozo office of Malta Enterprise since 1996. And to prove her point, she posted a picture of herself on Facebook in the office last year.
Spotted in Marsaxlokk
3.40pm Former Labour party president Emanuel Cuschieri has just posted this picture of Joseph Muscat at an event this morning to endorse parliamentary secretary Deo Debattista.
According to Cuschieri, the former PM's re-emergence has "panicked" the Nationalist Party.
Guess who's back?
2.44pm Spoiler alert. Labour candidate Keith Azzopardi Tanti has been teasing his Facebook followers about a 'special guest' at an event in Marsa this weekend. We can reveal it will be none other than Joseph Muscat.
As Ivan Martin reveals, the former prime minister - who resigned amid the fallout of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation - has already appeared at a number of events to show his support for Labour candidates. But it's been kept fairly quiet and Robert Abela has been keeping his distance. So far.
Amid EU sanctions, what about rich Russian passport buyers?
2.36pm The West has responded to Russia's invasion on Ukraine with a raft of sanctions. But what about Malta? Robert Abela has refused to say whether Malta will continue to allow Russian nationals to buy Maltese - and therefore EU - citizenship. Read the story here.
2.26pm It's only day three of the election campaign. But some people have already had enough. This picture has been posted on a Facebook group, apparently showing a grocer in Siġġiewi. The sign bans customers from talking about politics.
Could the marina return?
2.13pm Nationalist Party MP Robert Cutajar says Labour’s u-turn on the marina in Marsascala showed how the opposition proved it was on the right side of history. He asked whether the project would move from Marsascala to any neighbouring bays and questioned whether the proposed marina could return after the general election.
Earlier, Abela said the decision to scrap the marina is "permanent".
Live from Marsascala
2.02pm Marsascala is the place to be, it seems. PN candidates Robert Cutajar, Janice Chetcuti and John Baptist Camilleri are live from there right now - a day after Robert Abela announced he was scrapping plans for a marina.
What's on the agenda this evening?
1.39pm We'll be in Mellieħa and Ħamrun this evening for the main Labour and Nationalist party events - although there are a few other campaign events in between.
First up, at 6pm Bernard Grech will host a 'meet the candidates' event for PN supporters in Ħamrun.
Half an hour later, at 6.30pm, there'll be a speech by Robert Abela at the Labour event in Mellieħa.
1.05pm What's happened so far today in the 2022 election campaign?
- The PN announced four new candidates and approved its electoral manifesto.
- Labour said their first-time buyers pledge will be open to all, irrespective of income.
- Robert Abela said the Marsascala marina project has been permanently killed, but did not rule out a similar project for Xemxija.
- Bernard Grech unveiled the PN’s Gozo proposals and took credit for the government’s marina u-turn.
- ADPD said people should not trust the government's marina u-turn.
- Independent candidate Arnold Cassola alleged widespread corruption at Transport Malta.
- Abela said he would debate Grech at a University of Malta debate. Details have yet to be announced.
ADPD: Labour's marina flip flop is unsurprising
12.47pm The ADPD says Labour's decision to scrap the marina project is little more than a vote-catching exercise.
"Ask yourself this," says party chairperson Carmel Cacopardo in a statement. "Had your vote not been on the line do you think that the governing party would have taken the right decision?"
The party has a word of warning for voters, too.
"If you vote as usual, you will get the usual results.”
Abela and Grech will debate at university
12.30pm Robert Abela is a notoriously media-shy prime minister: he has yet to sit down for an interview with us, for instance, more than two years into his tenure.
But during his press conference earlier this morning, he laughed off suggestions that he was dodging debate invitations.
Abela said he and Bernard Grech would debate one another at the University of Malta during the campaign, among “others”.
We still do not know when that UoM debate will take place, or which ‘others’ the prime minister was referring to.
The patience of metalheads
12.15pm Spare a thought for Malta’s rock and metal community, who went through the trouble of organising two separate festivals while adhering to COVID-19 rules, only to have to shift the events after they clashed with the general election weekend.
The events will now be held between March 15 and 20. Best of luck with them, ladies and gents.
Keep it simple
11.43am A brief press conference by the PN leader, with no space for questions from journalists.
Grech used the opportunity to highlight the party’s four new candidates (check out the 8.42am entry for their names) and linked their fate to those of the several PN MPs who will not be running for re-election.
“I respect people’s decision not to contest. I appreciate it, because it creates new space for us to regenerate the party,” he said.
It seems Grech took questions from journalists, but the party's Facebook feed cut out before those were aired. Unfortunate. Labour had a similar problem earlier.
A 'determined' Bernard Grech
11.25am Bernard Grech’s turn to speak.
He says the party’s electoral programme is the ‘most ambitious’ ever drafted – a bit of a stock phrase for politicians come election season.
And then it’s onto the party’s Gozo-related proposals. Some of them have been announced in the previous months.
- A new 400-bed hospital in Gozo
- Cancer treatment facilities in Gozo
- A university campus on the island
- A Gozo branch of Malta Enterprise
- A bigger Mġarr Harbour and more Gozo Channel ships
Presenting PN's Gozo team
11.17am Claudio Grech opens the event, which will present the PN”s 13th district candidates to the public. We’ve heard more from Grech in the past two days than in the two months prior.
Bernard Grech in Gozo
11.05am Over to the other side of the political spectrum. Bernard Grech will be speaking in Mġarr, Gozo any minute now. Watch the event in the video below.
10.48am The prime minister was asked a range of questions. Some of his replies:
- He did not give a straight answer when asked if Malta would continue to sell passports to Russian investors, given turmoil in Ukraine. Instead, he said the scheme was a good one that should not be bashed.
- Negotiations between the government and Steward Health Care are at a standstill: there are currently no talks under way.
- He made it clear that the Marsascala marina plan is dead and buried. He would not say if the decision to scrap it was taken on the basis of poll results the party was handed.
- The marina decision is "absolutely not" a criticism of Ian Borg (who pushed the plan forward).
- He did not rule out developing a marina in Xemxija (the other location earmarked for one in the 2006 local plans).
Meanwhile, at Castille
10.38am Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has marched to the door of the Auberge de Castille to present an open letter to the prime minister.
He’s alleging widespread abuse at Transport Malta, with minister Ian Borg using the regulator as a recruitment agency for his constituents.
Cassola alleges that:
- Borg has inflated the TM headcount to more than 1,000 staff members (from 400) with many coming from his constituencies.
- Many promotions reserved for Ian Borg acolytes, including incompetent and unqualified ones.
- A sexual harassment case at TM is being covered up, because the perpetrator is hardcore Labour.
Read more about it here.
Gremlins in the system
10.28am It seems there was a problem of some sort with the PL video - they've restarted the feed with another one.
Two new candidates
10.21am The press conference serves to introduce voters to two new Labour candidates: Naomi Cachia (district 7 and 12) and Cressida Galea (district 1 and 8).
And then it’s back to Abela, who takes questions from journalists.
10.11am Abela is providing some more detail about Labour’s property proposals.
First-time buyers will get a €10,000 grant over 10 years, with the measure costing taxpayers an estimated €3.8 million in the first year. The scheme will not be means-tested, Abela says: all first-time buyers will qualify, backdated to January 1.
All existing property schemes will be kept. A scheme focused on helping people pay for their loan deposit will be extended to apply to properties valued at a maximum of €225,000.
Robert Abela holds Cospicua press conference
10.05am The prime minister and Labour leader will be speaking from the historic Rialto building.
Watch the press conference in the video below.
Aditus gets into the trenches
9.40am Human rights NGO Aditus has released a wish list of pledges and proposals it would like electoral candidates to adhere to.
They range from making parliament full-time to legalising abortion, and requiring donations to party-owned entities (think ONE or NET) subject to public disclosure obligations.
What's on the agenda this morning?
9.15am The two major parties both have events lined up for this morning: Robert Abela will speak in Cospicua at 10am, with Bernard Grech in Mġarr, Gozo at 11am.
Independent candidate Arnold Cassola (districts 10 and 11) will also be outside Castille at 10am, to present an open letter which he says wil reveal “scandals happening in the Transport Malta premises”.
A busy evening for the PN
8.42am We start with not one, not two, but three pieces of news from Dar Ċentrali.
The first: former deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami will appear on 9th district ballots, filling a gap vacated by outgoing MP Kristy Debono, instead of the 7th district as he did last time.
Fenech Adami will also contest the 8th district, as expected. A nice internal race is shaping up there between himself and former PN leader Adrian Delia. They're hardly the best of friends.
The second piece of news: the PN’s executive has formally approved its electoral manifesto. It will now need to be approved by the party’s general council before it is unveiled to the general public.
It was Claudio Grech who broke the news. He even included a photo of himself and Bernard Grech smiling at each other, in case we thought that he's upset about not seeking re-election.
And news item number three: the PN has approved four new electoral candidates:
- Mary Muscat (3rd district)
- Frederick Aquilina (6th district)
- Christian Micallef (1st district)
- Josianne Cardona Gatt (1st and 8th district)
8.35am Good morning and welcome to this live blog.