A snap election could have somewhat unusual ballot sheets, as none of the political parties have officially registered to be voted for, Chief Electoral Commissioner Joe Church told the Times of Malta.
Rumours of a possible snap election began circling earlier this month as news organisations turned up the heat on allegations of government corruption in light of the Panama scandal.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, however, last week dismissed the possibility of turning to the electorate to reaffirm his government’s mandate saying that while the Opposition was in “election mode”, he was in “governing mode”.
Mr Church said all political parties have until June this year to register with the commission but they have so far failed to do so.
“If a snap election was held right now, the parties would all be in limbo. The same would apply in a situation where an early election was called and parties had not met the June deadline either,” Mr Church said.
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil was coy when asked if he thought Dr Muscat should call an early election, saying only that this was the Prime Minister’s prerogative.
Two polls published over the weekend found that the gap between the two parties had been slashed from 11 per cent in the Labour Party’s favour back in 2013, to as little as 2.4 per cent. This meant that although the Labour Party would still win a hypothetical election tomorrow with a relative majority of 48.5 per cent of the votes, it would be a much closer race than in the previous vote.
If a snap election was held right now, the parties would all be in limbo. The same would apply if an early election was called
Mr Church said the commission was currently also working on redrafting the electoral districts as part of work ahead of the next general election. The commission redrafts the districts mid-way through every legislature to ensure that the island’s changing demographics are reflected in the voting map.
“There are changes that occur throughout the island. Some parts, such as St Paul’s Bay and Marsascala are growing rapidly while others along the west coast for example are shrinking,” he said, adding that there would be no major changes in the districts.
The Sunday Times of Malta this week published a news report in which Mr Church explained a major overhaul of the electoral system. He said cutting-edge vote-counting technology was expected to be used in the 2019 elections as “outdated” voting documents were replaced by the new eID cards.
The commission has already begun working towards the introduction of the new system, ordering studies and issuing international expressions of interest.
Other technological improvements, Mr Church said, would include a review of the assistance offered to the visually impaired. He said that while some 5,000 visually impaired were registered to vote, only five had used the braille ballots.
“Most find it too difficult, others opt for assistance and many, we have to face it, probably didn’t vote at all,” Mr Church said.
The technology used is not the only thing the commission is reviewing. Mr Church said that the different laws governing national elections and votes were being analysed to highlight discrepancies.
He said that, for instance, the piecemeal introduction of the electoral laws had seen varying time windows stipulated between general elections, local council elections and MEP elections.