Updated 7.15pm with PN reaction
The Nationalist Party has lost a court case to force a re-run of the early voting held at the prisons on Saturday, with the Constitutional Court citing a lack of jurisdiction.
The PN had claimed irregularities, arguing that prisoners sentenced to imprisonment of more than a year had been allowed to vote, in violation of the electoral law.
The Electoral Commission argued in court through its lawyer, Ian Refalo, that if the PN's request was to be upheld, the commission would not be able to wrap up the election process.
“This is the first time they are trying to stop the electoral process,” Refalo said.
He said the party could have filed an application at the appropriate time to have those voters struck off the electoral register. Whenever the updated electoral register is published, there is a 14-day time window within which corrections may be made.
PN lawyer Paul Borg Olivier, assisting PN general secretary Michael Piccinino, countered that the party’s intention was not to block or delay the general election, but to have a revision of the early voting.
If the updated list of ineligible voters was not communicated to the Electoral Commission by the Court Registrar, the Commission itself had a duty to correct the information.
This was a serious shortcoming resulting in a lack of electoral and constitutional certainty, argued Borg Olivier.
But the commission’s lawyer insisted that once the electoral register was published, the information there was taken as true.
The commission could not touch the electoral register and a re-run of the voting would therefore involve the same voters.
Borg Olivier countered that the commission’s lawyer was adopting a restrictive interpretation of the law.
He drew a parallel with a human rights case filed by the party against the commission in 2013 when a bundle of votes was wrongly allotted to the wrong candidate. The Constitutional Court in that case had addressed the error on a practical level and declared that if the votes “belonged to candidate A they are to be allocated to candidate A.”
By analogy the Constitutional Court has absolute powers in such circumstances to safeguard constitutional and electoral certainty.
Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti and Justices Giannino Caruana Demajo and Anthony Ellul dismissed the PN’s request, declaring that the court lacked jurisdiction to decide upon the matter.
In light of that decision the court also revoked an injunction which it had upheld provisionally.
In a reaction, the Nationalist Party said that while it respected the court's decision, it still had concerns because the Electoral Commission's serious shortcomings had not been addressed, in the interests of a transparent electoral process.
It remained committed to ensuring that the electoral process was transparent and free according to law.