Tuesday is day 23 of the general election campaign.
We will be providing live updates of the campaign as they happen throughout the day.
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What happened today on the campaign trail
8.44pm This live blog will end here.
It was a relatively tame day in the election campaign:
- Bernard Grech slammed tax refund cheques as “vote-buying”. A public policy expert argued that the cheques could be a breach of ‘treating’ provisions in the General Elections Act
- The Labour Party organised a conference about mental health... and had an outgoing PN MP as its keynote speaker.
We'll be back tomorrow for more updates from the 2022 general election campaign.
Abela and Grech's evening appearances
8.20pm So what happened in the evening events?
Labour: Robert Abela used his Ħamrun event this evening to highlight Labour’s plans for the 1st district – from pedestrianising Floriana’s St Anne Street, to turning the MDP factory in Ħamrun into a park.
He also explained the party’s plans to regenerate disadvantaged areas: the proposal is to identify such areas through a national study and then provide hefty fiscal incentives to invest there: from grants for startups or for existing businesses to renovate, to doubling grants for first-time buyers there.
PN: Over in Balzan, Bernard Grech told his audience that their vote was the key to “unlock a better future”.
“If you want to unlock a better future, you must use this key, this passport, your vote, to open a future with new horizons and opportunities, which this party can provide,” he said.
He also made a direct pitch to disgruntled Labourites, saying that by voting for the PN, they would be narrowing the gap between the parties and sending a “strong message” to Robert Abela.
An illuminating gift
7.53pm It appears Labour candidate Julia Farrugia Portelli is sending voters mini-torches.
The obvious question is whether such gifts amount to “treating” as defined in the General Elections Act.
But there are less obvious questions to ask here, too.
Labour event begins
6.50pm Robert Abela is greeting Labour supporters in Ħamrun. A party event in that town will begin shortly.
Watch it in the video below.
PN event begins
6.43pm The PN is organising an evening event in Balzan. Watch it in the video below.
Solidarity from Bernard Grech
6.25pm Bernard Grech is taking the scenic route to Balzan – he’s stopped in Valletta to make an impromptu appearance at a small vigil by activists calling for peace.
Reminder: Grech had suggested pausing the electoral campaign for one day, as a symbolic gesture in solidarity with Ukraine. The suggestion was ignored by the PL.
Where are the leaders tonight?
6.08pm Both Robert Abela and Bernard Grech have 6.30pm events scheduled this evening. Abela’s is in Ħamrun. Grech will be in Balzan.
Before that, Grech made a brief appearance in Ta’ Xbiex, accompanied by the party’s district 9 candidates. He used the soapbox appearance to tell voters that the PN’s environmental policies are “realistic” and "clear".
A second ex-PN official speaks at Labour event
5.56pm Mario Galea was not the only former PN official to speak at this afternoon’s Labour conference about mental health – Roselyn Borg Knight was also in attendance.
Borg Knight was the PN’s international secretary and was set to run as a PN candidate in this election before she withdrew from the party earlier this year, saying she wanted to focus on her profession.
She explained her presence by saying she and Lydia Abela, who organised this conference, were classmates and friends back in their university days.
It is nevertheless an interesting decision – a former PN official speaking at a Labour Party event, 10 days before a general election.
Workers can wait, there's an election underway
5.42pm The government and UĦM – Voice of the Workers union are at loggerheads, somewhat unsurprisingly.
The union has accused the government of using the general election as an “excuse” to put off negotiations concerning several collective agreements. It says the government has told it that all meetings will resume once the election is done and dusted.
But the government is not having it. It says that it is standard procedure to suspend negotiations on collective agreements once a ġeneral election is called. Talks will continue once a new government is in place, it says.
Qormi police get a court breather
5.22pm All court cases involving Qormi district police and scheduled for March 28 have been postponed by six weeks, in anticipation of stretched police resources that day.
Officers are likely to be busy on March 28, when the winning party’s supporters will be out and about celebrating.
Affected cases scheduled for that day will now be heard on May 10.
Outgoing PN MP appears at Labour event
4.34pm Outgoing PN MP Mario Galea has made an appearance at a Labour Party event.
He is speaking about mental health – an issue that is close to his heart.
“To those who suffer in silence, I understand you because I am like you,” he says.
Galea then had a message for Chris Fearne, telling him he intended to remain in contact with him to ensure that the mental health pledges the PL is promising come to fruition.
Read more about it here.
ADPD links Joseph Portelli to PL and PN
4.05pm An interesting choice of political message by the ADPD, linking the Nationalist Party to big developers like Joseph Portelli.
In the past days all the focus has been on Robert Abela’s links to the powerful sector. And the Green Party makes that link clear in another poster featuring Portelli with Aaron Farrugia, with Robert Abela photobombing.
This ADPD poster flips that script. A vote for the PN, it says, is a vote for Portelli’s team. Everyone knows that Portelli has benefited massively from Labour’s time in power. The ADPD appears to be going after voters fed up with Malta’s construction frenzy who may be tempted to plump for PN.
PN candidate asks for your tax refund
3.37pm Tax refund cheques are landing in letterboxes, and PN supporters are not sure what to do with them.
Enter candidate Eve Borg Bonello (districts 9 and 10), who has a suggestion for people caught in that sort of quandary: donate the cheques to the PN.
“The PN needs them,” she says.
Lydia Abela to co-host Labour press conference
3.15pm The Labour Party is holding a press conference at 3.50pm in collaboration with Lydia Abela, the wife of the prime minister.
Abela has piloted a number of health-related government initiatives ever since her husband became PM, and she’s no stranger to partisan politics, either: she previously served as secretary of the Labour Party’s executive committee.
Facing up to the issues
1.58pm The Green Party expressed concern about abuse from facial recognition technology during a press conference.
Candidate Mina Tolu explained that although the primary aim of facial recognition technology was to deter crime, this may be abused of to follow the movement of persons and therefore violate the right to privacy. Party leader Carmel Cacopardo said surveillance to be democratically accountable to strong institutions.
Is this April 1?
Former PN minister George Pullicino has taken a dig at the prime minister, who on Tuesday inaugurated what was described as the second phase of the Ta' Qali national park project.
This was a project done by the PN government in 1990, the former minister says. Is this April 1? (All Fools' Day)
Cheques are vote-buying exercise, Grech says. But what would he have done?
Bernard Grech was the guest of Mcast students on Tuesday morning, telling them a new PN government would address a teacher shortage, incentivise students and build a new Mcast campus in Gozo.
He also called the government’s decision to issue tax rebate cheques on the eve of the election “a vote-buying exercise” but did not say much more on what the PN would do, a missed opportunity given Labour's criticism of his position.
No straight answer
Prime Minister Robert Abela was asked by journalists on Tuesday whether the €600,000 price for his Zejtun villa was locked in before the Planning Authority sanctioned the property, thus raising its value.
Abela replied that all information about his property is in the public deed.
From swabbing centre - to polling station
12.24pm Mater Dei hospital has just announced there will be no COVID-19 tests carried out at its swabbing centres on March 24 and 26. The place will instead be used as a 'COVID polling station'.
Every little helps
12.00pm Former President, minister and Labour Party general secretary Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca has been endorsing several Labour candidates by appearing at their activities or posts on Facebook.
They include psychologist Katya De Giovanni, and ministers Julia Farrugia Portelli, Edward Zammit Lewis, Silvio Schembri and Ian Borg. Coleiro Preca’s voter base used to be Qormi, now part of the electoral districts contested by De Giovanni, Borg and Schembri. Perhaps in endorsing Borg, Coleiro Preca forgot her criticism of his plans for the Mrieħel Bypass flyover? Or have those plans disappeared?
Man gets into trouble for saying MP, his brother should hang
11.40am A man who said in a Facebook post that Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina and his brother Robert should hang, was given a seven-month suspended jail term for hate speech. Robert Aquilina heads the NGO Repubblika.
The accused pleaded guilty and apologised The court had some strong words. "When will we start speaking constructively on social media?” the magistrate asked, adding that while it was OK to criticise constructively, firing such comments was not right.
PM to inaugurate second phase of Ta' Qali national park
10.21am Prime Minister Robert Abela will be at Ta' Qali to inaugurate the second phase of the Malta National Park project in a few minutes' time. Great weather for it.
9am University academic George Vital Zammit observes in a Facebook post that apart from the cheques and tax refunds handed to the electorate on the eve of a general election, thousands of calls are being made by election candidates, asking constituents whether they need something. It is nothing new, he concedes.
But hasn't the time come to consider whether this breaches the General Elections Act? He is right.
The law says that anyone who directly or indirectly gives, lends or agrees to give or lend, offers, promises or promises to procure any money or valuable consideration to any voter in order to induce the voter to vote or refrain from voting shall be deemed guilty of the offence of bribery.
The same applies for any person who, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, gives or procures, or agrees to give or procure, or offers, or promises to procure any office, place or employment to any voter.
Gearing up for the last Sunday of the campaign
8.12am The political parties are gearing up for the last Sunday of the electoral campaign.
The PN has announced an afternoon rally at its stronghold, Sliema.
Labour will be meeting at the MFCC in Ta'Qali.
Weather forecast says it is expected to be rainy and windy on Sunday, much like the last.
Some of this morning's events
7.58am There will be a couple of events this morning which have a political bearing. Robert Abela will be meeting the social partners at the MCESD to discuss the fallout of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He promised on Monday to keep supporting businesses as the government had done at the height of the pandemic.
A couple of hours later, former PN leader Adrian Delia will testify in the court case he instituted for the annulment of the Vitals/Steward Healthcare hospitals contract.
At noon, Mcast students will host PN leader Bernard Grech for a ‘political dialogue’ event.
Also at noon, education and sports minister Clifton Grima will sign a Memorandum of Understanding by the National Development and Social Fund (NDSF), Sport Malta and the Malta Motorsport Federation for the building of the motorsport track in Hal Far.
After years of inaction and unkept promises, events related to this project are breaking all speed records as the election approaches. Another event was held last week to celebrate the transfer of the last factories from the proposed site.
7.52am For those who enjoy early morning political reads, Times of Malta features an opinion piece by Nationalist front-bencher Mario de Marco who picks up on Joe Debono Grech's 'good thief, bad thief' comparison and reflects on what Labour thieves have stolen.
In another opinion piece, minister Owen Bonnici uses Women's Day to focus on what the government has done for women to thrive, and what Labour is proposing.
When one day just isn't enough
7.45am Good morning and welcome to this live blog. And what better way to begin than with news of a two-day party?
One particular sound and lighting company is already making preparations for two days of post-election celebrations, advertising tickets for its celebration trailer.
Expect it to be a loud one: the company boasts that it is "powered by over 120KW (RMS) Professional Sound."