Wednesday was day 31 of the 2022 general election campaign, a day characterised by a televised debate between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.
These were the day's salient election-related developments.
- Robert Abela and Bernard Grech clash in the Broadcasting Authority's only televised debate.
- The Constitutional court dismisses a PN request for a rerun of early voting at the prisons, where the PN claimed irregularities.
- Robert Abela tells Gozitans the Labour Party was close to them during the Covid pandemic, and it had steered the island to previously unseen economic growth.
- Bernard Grech defends his support for hunting but says hunters have duties as well as rights. He also underscores the need to increase the powers of the Animal Welfare Commissioner.
- Psychiatrists and Electoral Commission officials assessed dementia patients on their capability to vote in recent weeks, Active Ageing Minister Michael Farrugia insisted after families raised concerns.
- The PN says its electoral promises will cost €6 billion to implement but would generate direct and indirect GDP contributions of €42.6 billion by 2030.
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Read past blogs: Day one | day two | day three | day four | day five | day eight | day nine | day 10 | day 11 | day 12 | day 15 | day 16 | day 17 | day 18 | day 19 | day 22 | day 23 | day 24 | day 25 | day 26 | day 29 | day 30
Live blog ends
8.56pm This live blog will end here. We will be back tomorrow for the last day of the electoral campaign. Friday is a 'day of silence' during which campaigning is not allowed ahead of polling day on Saturday.
Abela: We are the future
8.45pm It has been a busy few hours for the prime minister. He is speaking at a rally in Zurrieq, telling his listeners that Labour 'is the future.'
Grech: hunting is a culture that must be respected
8pm PN leader Bernard Grech says that in favour of hunting is not contradictory to calling for stronger animal right.
“Hunting, whether you agree with it or not, is a tradition and a culture that many people were raised in. Who am I to take away or deny someone their culture?” he said when questioned in Mosta.
One day to pick up your voting document
7.55pm The Electoral Commission has advised all those who have not received their voting document that they have up to Thursday at midnight to personally collect it from its offices at the former trade fair in Naxxar and the ID Cards office in Victoria, Gozo. Office hours for Thursday shall be from 8am to 1pm and from 3pm till midnight. An ID card must be produced.
PN respects court decision, concerned about commission's shortcomings
7.15pm The Nationalist Party says it respects the Constitutional Court's decision dismissing its call for a rerun of voting at the prisons, but it says it remains concerned by shortcomings by the Electoral Commission and is commited to ensuring that the electoral process is free and transparent.
Grech addressing rally in Mosta
6.46pm Bernard Grech is about to address a rally in Mosta. Watch the video below
Watch: Robert Abela in Gozo
5.50pm The Prime Minister is in Gozo, where he is addressing a Labour Party activity. He stresses that Labour was always close to the people, especially in the two years of the pandemic, and Gozo has seen unprecedented economic progress.
Watch the video below.
Prison vote will not be re-taken
5.45pm A court has thrown out a PN bid to have early voting in prison re-taken, following allegations of irregular voting.
A constitutional court ruled that it has no jurisdiction in the matter and dismissed the party's request.
The Electoral Commission, which was the defendant in the case, told the court that the PN could have flagged its concerns about ineligible voters being added to the electoral register during a 14-day time window for corrections.
Earlier in the day, Robert Abela had said he hoped the PN would "respect the democratic process" once the court ruled on the matter.
More about the court decision here.
Labour calls out its own GDP estimates
5.29pm The Labour Party’s English-language website, The Journal, has said that the PN’s financial costings for being based on incorrect GDP projections.
“The whole edifice of the PN’s economic projections is based on an incorrect starting value,” The Journal wrote, noting that the NSO is projecting 9.4% GDP growth this year, not 5.5% as the PN’s document states.
That’s all well and good… if only it wasn’t for the fact that the Labour Party’s own manifesto states that its proposals are based on the assumption of 5.5% annual GDP growth, too.
“No wonder he [Abela] doesn’t want to give interviews to independent journalists,” Bernard Grech wrote on social media as he highlighted the matter.
Green party discusses 'femifesto'
4.40pm The Green Party candidates met with the Malta Women’s Lobby to discuss the proposals made through a "femifesto".
Their document highlights several inequalities women and families still face in Malta today.
ADPD candidate Melissa Bagley underlined the broad agreement between her party and the women's lobby and the targeted steps needed to tackle the problem.
Party chairperson Carmel Cacopardo added: “I was disappointed to hear that other parties did not welcome the women’s lobby's invitation for a dialogue. If we are not even able to listen to each other, how are we going to work together, how are we going to achieve political consensus and tackle stigma?”
Avoiding the awkward questions
3.51pm Robert Abela is a busy man. But then again, so is every other top politician in Europe – and somehow, they manage to find time for the odd interview. Here, for instance, is France's Macron giving a two-hour interview during an electoral campaign. And here's another interview France's president gave recently.
Not Malta’s prime minister, though: Abela has never accepted an interview request with us and has gone through an entire electoral campaign without sitting down for a proper one-on-one interview with the independent media.
It’s a tactic that his predecessor, Joseph Muscat, had adopted in his final years in office, as his government crashed into a vortex of corruption scandals.
Our reporter Ivan Martin called Abela out about it earlier today. Here’s what the prime minister said.
Lydia Abela endorses...
3.30pm File this one under ‘You don’t say’.
Lydia Abela has urged people to vote for the Labour Party this coming Saturday, saying the party will ensure a “better environment and quality of life” in the coming five years.
A prayer for our sins
2.30pm Electoral candidates have probably intensified their praying for a win on Saturday, but the Church's justice and peace commission is warning that even the electorate needs to do some soul-searching.
The commission has taken to social media to share a prayer, specifically penned for the general election, through which the faithful can ask for inspiration while in the voting booth so that they too can contribute to the building of a just society.
Balluta: a symbol of all that's wrong with planning - Cassola
1pm Cassola has left the controversial case of illegal works at the former Barracuda and Piccolo Padre restaurants in Balluta Bay for one of his last press conferences before election day.
Addressing the media from St Julian's, the independent candidate (10th and 11th districts), called the bay a "symbol of all that is wrong with planning and development in our country”.
Around three months ago, the Planning Authority had issued a stop and enforcement notice over the illegal works, which included the removal of traditional Maltese wooden balconies on the façade.
Cassola is claiming that the Malta Developers’ Association is urging politicians to 'let them work', and this "Barracuda mutilation" laid bare the ugly truth behind such words.
He added that the building of waterpolo pitches, lido and restaurants across the bay was "another monstrous project which will be the final death knell of Balluta and St Julian’s bays as we know them".
All set for final debate, Abela arrives late
11.30am Cameras were set rolling at PBS after the leaders of both major parties arrived at the TV station for their final debate during this electoral campaign.
Our reporter on site, Ivan Martin tells us Grech was left waiting at the podium as Abela arrived 15 minutes late.
The 60-minute debate is being recorded now and will be broadcast at 9pm.
We will bring you a detailed report at around 10pm.
PN spokesperson in hospital
11.10am PN spokesperson Peter Agius is going to have to call time on his campaigning - he's been admitted to hospital with COVID-19.
Agius made that news public in social media this morning, saying the virus has "slammed" him despite having taken all three shots of the vaccine.
We wish him - and other candidates who are indisposed or in quarantine, such as Amanda Spiteri Grech and Karol Aquilina - well.
ADPD's Brian Decelis sweeps through his districts
10.55am As candidates scramble to think up innovative ways to get their message across in these last few days of campaigning, Brian Decelis has taken to virtually 'sweeping clean' districts three and four.
In keeping with the party's slogan 'Green sweeps clean' and armed with a green broom over his shoulder, the ADPD candidate has been shot on video walking by town line signs of the various localities he is contesting.
Decelis put together the two IG reels with the help of his daughter Joy.
'People with dementia can still vote'
10.45am Remember our report on claims by relatives that residents with dementia at St Vincent de Paul Residence were taken to vote on Saturday without their families being informed?
Michael Farrugia, the minister responsible for active ageing has now told our reporter Claudia Calleja that psychiatrists and electoral commission officials would have assessed them on their capability to vote.
According to the law, if a person is deemed of unsound mind, they're not eligible to vote and relatives or carers can kick off a process to cancel a voter from the electoral register.
However, little can be done to revoke a voting document on grounds of lack of mental capacity once it has been issued.
Why isn't housework rewarded?
10.35am While we're on the topic of government cheques, if you are a woman out of employment, you're unlikely to receive the cheque... unless you're a pensioner or a student.
The women's lobby this morning slammed the government's failure to include women who are not in employment in its distribution of the stimulus cheque, urging politicians to stop ignoring half of the population.
If you want to read more about the topic, or the lobby's femifesto, click here.
Have you received your government cheques yet?
10.30am If you're one of those who hasn't yet received your stimulus cheque, or have doubts over the value of your tax refund, you're in for a long wait on the phone to get through to an agent on 153.
The government's freephone service has been inundated with calls over the cheques, sent out just days before the general election.
The scheme has been slammed by the Opposition as “a vote-buying exercise".
During this electoral campaign, PL itself has warned voters that a PN government would not send tax refund cheques for average workers.
Read our detailed report here.
Ballot boxes with prisoners' votes will remain sealed for now
10am The PN has upped its battle to have prisoners' votes retaken, claiming those ineligible to vote were allowed to cast their ballots on Saturday.
The ballot boxes will remain sealed for now, after the courts provisionally upheld an injunction requested by the party late yesterday.
A hearing over the PN's request is scheduled for 3pm. In the meantime, you can read more about the issue here.
How much will the electoral promises cost?
9am As the vote-hunting season draws to an end, the PN has told us that if elected to government, it would spend €6 billion to implement its manifesto.
Read about the breakdown of these costings here.
Stuck in traffic? Update yourself about your district's candidates
8.50am With just three days until you cast your ballot, do you know who's contesting your district?
If you are a passenger in a car or a bus that is stuck in traffic, probably caused by a car crash on Regional Road, take a look at our series, which might help you out with your decision:
We will be publishing more analyses of the districts in the coming hours.
92% turnout on Tuesday
8.30am Nearly all of those who were allowed to vote on Tuesday - mainly assistant electoral commissioners - have cast their ballot.
According to electoral commission data, out of the 6,682 people registered to vote yesterday, 6,157 (92.14%) cast their vote.
No hospital visitors allowed
8.10am The electoral commission has backtracked from its decision to allow hospital visitors tomorrow between 7pm and 8pm.
The commission has just informed us no visitors will be allowed at the Mater Dei, SAMOC, Karin Grech, Mount Carmel and Gozo General hospitals tomorrow.
The hospital authorities, however, might issue permits for relatives of patients who are seriously ill.
What's on today
8am Good morning and welcome to another busy day of this electoral campaign.
So far we know of a press conference by independent candidate Arnold Cassola in Balluta at noon.
ADPD is also planning a press conference for 2pm in Pieta's Pjazza San Luqa.
Robert Abela is then scheduled to address party supporters in Xewkija at 5.30pm and later - at 8pm - in Żurrieq.
Bernard Grech is set to participate in a party event at 6.30pm next to the Rotunda in Mosta.
A debate between Abela and Grech will then be broadcast on TVM and Radju Malta at 9pm.