Friday is day 26 of the general election campaign. We will be reporting the day's political events as they happen.
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What happened today on the campaign trail
8.48pm This live blog will end here.
- ADPD publishes a document with the salient points of its manifesto;
- Nature Trust calls for a greener education;
- Volt Malta says it wants a total revamp of Malta’s systems to tackle mental health;
- Four COVID polling stations are being set up;
- Ministers continue to target constituents.
PN will reveal electoral programme costing at the right time - Grech
8.30pm Addressing supporters of the 11th district, which he is contesting, Bernard Grerch this evening said the Nationalist Party will reveal the costings of its electoral proposal at the right time.
Speaking in Mdina, he said the PN would reveal these details when it suited it and not when the Labour Party wanted, he said, because the PN made its own agenda.
He criticised Labour for saying their proposals were costed, saying the party had only said these would cost €3.3 billion. This, he said, was a price and no costings.
“Because for Labour the price, and not the value, is what is important,” he said.
The PN, on the other hand, would present a detailed process of the cost of the investment it is proposing and what the country would be benefitting from through such investment.
Grech gave an overview of the party’s proposals for the health sector and insisted that what the party promised, it would implement.
“My father taught me the importance of keeping one’s word and for the PN, its word is its strength,” he said.
He said that whatever he had said has been proved to be the truth. This did not prevail immediately but only following many sacrifices made by many people, including his predecessor Simon Busuttil and many journalists, not least Daphne Caruana Galizia, who paid for this with her life.
“Keep calm and let’s continue to convince that we have a vision,” Grech said.
He criticised the prime minister for his property deals, especially since he was an advisor to the Planning Authority, and asked whether Robert Abela had been visited by the government’s architect to value property he bought for €600,000 which was worth at least three times that.
Grech promised that the PN would allow people to keep the jobs they were being given by the Labour government to buy votes just before the election.
He thanked the people who were donating to the PN the tax refund and cost-of-living cheques being given by Labour to buy their vote, but said that the people who needed this money should keep it.
Former PN leader Simon Busuttil, Grech’s father and other members of his family were present for Friday’s event.
Electoral result 'not a foregone conclusion' - Robert Abela
8.23pm Speaking to the party faithful in Fgura, a Labour fortress, Prime Minister Robert Abela said people must not fall for the “trap” of thinking that Labour was going to win next week’s general election, as the election result was not a foregone conclusion.
Abela specifically addressed those who had decided not to cast their vote this election, telling them to weigh their decision as it could give the opposition the opportunity to govern and turn back time.
"Do not fall for the trap that Labour is going to win and that the election result is a foregone conclusion," he insisted
Those who decided to stay at home must not forget who was with them, by their side, during the past two difficult years brought about by the pandemic, he said.
He said the opposition was being led by PN MPs Beppe Fenech Adami, Jason Azzopardi, Karol Aquilina and David Agius. When the Nationalist Party had won the election with just 1,500 votes in 2008, he said, it was taken over by arrogance.
“Ask yourselves who was by your side in the last two years. Help us build on what we achieved. Imagine what more we can do if we are given a new mandate. What we achieved so far is just the beginning. We have a clear plan on where we want to take the country...
“We aim to carry out the biggest environment project with an investment of €700 million over seven years, will reduce taxes for workers and businesses, we will increase pensions and assist first-time buyers. These are just a few of the 1,000 proposals which cover all sectors of the Maltese society and economy and with your vote, they will become 1,000 achievements,” Abela said.
“The March 26 election is the only survey that counts,” he added.
Labour's event in Fgura
6.59pm Labour’s event in Fgura has started.Watch it live here:
PN's event at Mdina
6.49pm The PN’s event at the Olive Gardens has started.
Watch it live here:
Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar launches Environmental Charter
6.25pm Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar this morning launched an Environment Charter, with the endorsement of seven social partners, 14 eNGOs and nine local councils.
The aim of the charter aim is to get politicians to commit to measures to halt the ongoing destruction of the country’s heritage, environment and the consequent diminishing quality of life for Malta’s residents.
The charter can be read in the pdf link, which also includes its signatories.
Where are the leaders tonight?
5.56pm Robert Abela will be in Fgura for an event that begins at 6.30pm.
Bernard Grech will be addressing supporters at the Olive Gardens in Mdina at the same time. We will provide video links to both events.
Galdes goes to Swatar
5.12pm Two weeks ago, we revealed that Housing Minister Roderick Galdes has a habit of calling up families in his constituencies who are approved for social housing, to break the good news to them in person.
Three weeks ago, we had reported that Galdes and fellow cabinet member Alex Muscat were announcing taxpayer-funded projects in their own constituencies, during an election campaign.
Today, Galdes inaugurated new social housing units in Swatar. Which happens to partially fall within his district 8 constituencies.
Trackless tram confusion
5.02pm Speaking of mass transport, there’s a bit of confusion surrounding the PN’s trackless tram proposal.
Party candidate Ryan Callus told reporters on Tuesday that an existing lane of traffic on arterial roads would be converted into a dedicated tram lane. But his party colleague Toni Bezzina said today that will not be the case, and that existing roads will be adapted to squeeze in an extra lane without reducing lanes for vehicular traffic.
“We never said that an existing lane of traffic will be used up,” he said, despite video evidence suggesting otherwise.
Green party's transport plan
4.30pm ADPD has its own mass transit proposal, and it’s closer to the PN’s trackless tram than Labour’s metro idea.
The green party believes a bus rapid transit system operated by fully electric buses is the way to go.
ADPD candidate Ralph Cassar (districts 7 and 11) discussed the party’s transport proposals during a press conference earlier today.
Low speed zones, he said, should be enforced in urban roads so that people do not feel they need to stay off them and the use of scooters should be encouraged by suitable regulations.
- A bus rapid transit system with electric powered buses;
- A regional and circular transportation system;
- More road space for public transport;
- Trams in certain areas;
- Incentives for companies that organise transport for employees;
- Teleworking or working from home whenever practical;
- Only allowing in vehicles carrying more than one person in certain zones.
Cassola pushes for more R&D
3.20pm While Robert Abela was meeting MCAST students, independent candidate Arnold Cassola was at Junior College.
During his visit, he urged “ massive investment in research and innovation” to ensure today's teen students have quality jobs in 10 years.
"Unfortunately, today Malta invests only 0.6% of its GDP as opposed to the European average of 3%. This is simply not on", he said.
Fearne's clinical gift to his constituents
3.04pm Last week, our reporter Claire Farrugia revealed that almost half of all ministerial press conferences held during the electoral campaign concerned initiatives in ministers’ constituencies.
Here’s another one – Labour candidate and Health Minister Chris Fearne inaugurating a health clinic in Tarxien, which happens to be part of the 4th district that he is contesting.
Malta’s four COVID polling stations
2.31pm If you’ve got COVID or are in quarantine on election day, you’ll be casting your vote in one of four distinct polling centres.
They will be set up at
- Smart City,
- Ta’ Qali,
- Life Sciences Park (outside Mater Dei Hospital)
- Xewkija racecourse in Gozo
People in quarantine and those who are self-isolating because they are COVID-positive will be kept apart.
Volt's mental health drive
2.08pm Volt Malta says it wants a total revamp of Malta’s systems to tackle mental health.
‘‘With roughly one in every four people in Malta living mental health difficulties, we need to ensure mental healthcare is given as much importance as physical healthcare’’, candidate Alexia DeBono (district 8 and 9) said.
Among its proposals:
- More mental healthcare facilities for youths and minorities
- Creating four psychiatric regional clinics
- Remodelling and rebranding Mount Carmel
- More focus on mental health education in secondary school
- Adding all psychiatric medications to the government formulary
ADPD's message to young voters
1.58pm Students are fed up with being ignored by politicians.
That’s the message some such students delivered to ADPD representatives on Friday.
ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo had a simple reply to that (justified) complaint: the party needs to be represented in parliament if it is to enact their wishes.“Nobody knows what the future holds in store, but our actions can determine it,” he said.
All ADPD candidates have endorsed a pledge to give children a greater voice in policymaking. Volt candidates have also endorsed the pledge, as have a handful of politicians from each of the large parties.
Robert Abela's FATF hopes
1.45pm It was Robert Abela’s turn to visit MCAST today, and the Labour leader was all smiles as he met with students.
The PM and Labour leader revealed that FATF assessors will be visiting Malta next month, and spoke with a degree of optimism about the organisation’s June plenary session.
There is hope that Malta will “get the result we are all hoping for” during that session, he said. Read: get off the greylist.
More about that here.
Bernard Grech’s carrots and sticks
1.20pm The PN leader was on F Living this afternoon, where he answered questions about the PN’s various proposals for the country.
Among other things, he compared running a country to positive parenting.
“I don’t believe in the politics of restraint, I believe in the politics of opportunity,” he said as he defended the party’s decision to not limit construction rights - something the Labour Party also argues.
Grech went on to say how he and his wife raised their kids by offering them incentives for good behaviour, rather than threatening punishment.
The question is: will mega-developers be won over by carrots when they’ve already gobbled up the main course?
Nature Trust wants greener education
11.51am Education for Sustainable Development is being neglected or treated as an afterthought by politicians, Nature Trust believes.
The eNGO is responsible for some of the most significant initiatives in this sector – things like EkoSkola, Young Reporters for the Environment and Learning About Forests.
But these initiatives are still treated as extra-curricular activities, with teachers using up their own spare time to teach them. That needs to change and ESD brought into the mainstream curriculum, Nature Trust believes.
The eNGO also has another, fairly straightforward request: to encourage more outdoor learning. Students need to see, smell, touch nature if they are to appreciate it.
“How can individuals be expected to value something that have never (or rarely) experienced?” Nature Trust asks.
Evarist's morning reflections, in book form
11.35am Evarist Bartolo (districts 10 and 12) is a big fan of the early morning Facebook post. This morning's post, for instance, had Malta's foreign affairs minister sharing Freddie Portelli lyrics.
Now Bartolo has compiled a bunch of those posts into a book, just in time for the election. 'Sliem u Saħħa' features a selection of Bartolo's Facebook posts from the past five years.
Among those endorsing the book is former EU commissioner (and Labour minister) Karmenu Vella, who said he starts his daily routine with Bartolo's posts.
ADPD jogs people's memory
11am ADPD has published a document with salient points from its manifesto, reminding the electorate of its "realistic proposals".
These are some of its proposals, with more details here:
- A full-time Parliament.
- Party donations limit of €25,000 is decreased to €5,000.
- Constitutional mechanism ensuring gender balance applies to all parties.
- President elected by an electoral college composed of MPs and local council representatives.
- Removal of article 2 of the Constitution regarding religion.
- Constitutional protection to safeguard the environment.
- Bays used for swimming and recreation kept free of commercial development.
- Aid given to companies is tied to environmentally friendly investment.
- Grants or interest-free loans for the purchase of bicycles, electric bikes and scooters.
- More enforcement to ensure all new buildings have adequate well facilities.
- LGBTIQ+ families depicted objectively in the curriculum.
- Stipends pegged to half the national minimum wage.
No photos please!
10.20am With voting set to kick off tomorrow for those who won't be able to cast their vote on the 26th, the Electoral Commission is reminding us all that the use of mobile phones, cameras and photographic equipment in polling places is prohibited.
Anyone caught using such equipment could be fined or imprisoned.
Do you know who's contesting your district?
9.40am If you're one of the lucky ones who hasn't received incessant calls and mail from electoral candidates in your district, and therefore have no idea who is contesting your locality, our district series might help you out with your decision. So far we've published four:
Gearing up for the last week of campaigning
8.55am With a handful of days left until the cessation of electoral activity 24 hours before voting kicks off on March 26, campaigning is expected to intensify.
The broadcasting authority has just informed us that on Tuesday, TVM and Radju Malta will air so-called 'final messages' from representatives of ABBA, ADPD, Partit Popolari and Volt Malta. These will be followed by 'final messages' from independent candidates Noel Apap, Nazzareno Bonnici, Arnold Cassola and Jane Chircop.
The statements will be aired at 9pm.
What's on today?
8.45am Good morning and welcome to one of the last live blogs for this electoral campaign.
Today's agenda includes a 10am visit by Arnold Cassola at Junior College in Msida.
Later, at around 6pm, the independent candidate is planning on attending a talk by former German MEP Michael Cramer themed The iron curtain bicycle track at NSTS, University Street, Msida.
Both political parties are also expected to hold mass events today.
Bernard Grech is expected to drop by at Safi, next to the locality's main church at 5.30pm, and he will later address party supporters in Attard at around 6pm.
Robert Abela is meanwhile meant to meet party supporters in Vjal il-Kottoner, Fgura, at 6.30pm and Pjazza Narbona, Qormi at 8pm.