The wheels are in motion for the holding of the March 8 election, the head of the Electoral Commission, Edward Gatt, said yesterday.

Speaking to The Times shortly after the Prime Minister officially announced the election date, Mr Gatt said the logistical arrangements contemplated in the law could now start to be implemented.

Does the fact that there will be two elections on one day - a general election and local elections in 23 localities - make the life of the Electoral Commission more difficult?

Mr Gatt acknowledged that the volume of work does increase but added that the employees were very experienced and could cope with the enlarged workload.

The counting process for the upcoming election will take place in the brand new counting hall at the Trade Fair Grounds, Naxxar, which is all ready for the big day, Mr Gatt said.

Asked whether the new hall was better than the one in Ta' Qali, Mr Gatt cautiously replied that a number of improvements had been made. "We were careful to make as many improvements as we could."

The hall is some 320 square metres larger than the one at Ta' Qali, which has been demolished to make way for a new American embassy. It includes special quarters for the police, offices for the parties and the Electoral Commission, a press centre as well as restaurants.

This election is also the first one following the change in the electoral districts back in 2005.

Although the Commission's initial proposal was to include a part of Gozo with the 12th district in Malta, last year Parliament decided that all towns and villages in Gozo will continue to be grouped together in the 13th district.

Among the localities that have shifted districts were Fgura, which moved from the second to the third district; G?axaq, from the fifth to the fourth; Mdina, from the seventh to the 11th district; G?ira, from the ninth to the 10th district; Swieqi, from the 10th to the ninth district; Si??iewi, from the seventh to the sixth district; Attard, from the seventh to the 11th district and Rabat from the 11th to the seventh district.

There are over 315,000 eligible voters this year, an increase of some 17,000 since the last general election in 2003.


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