The PN's decision not to field enough candidates for elections in 21 localities could have been a tactic aimed at discouraging the people from going out to vote on May 25, even though the European Parliament elections were also being held on the day, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday the PL said the Nationalist Party had already lost a third of local councils since it fielded just enough candidates to fill the minority seats in 21 Labour-controlled localities. No elections would have been necessary had Labour not fielded a higher number of candidates than the remaining seats.
PN slams Labour 'spin'
The Nationalist Party replied by noting that the same could be said of Labour in other localities such as Attard, Swieqi, San Lawrenz and Balzan, where the PL had itself not fielded enough candidates for council elections.
It also pointed out that the PL had cancelled elections in 16 administrative councils such as Swatar and Baħar il-Cagħaq, denying people there the vote.
The PN accused the "socialist party" of having failed to understand the concept of local councils - 25 years after the PN had introduced them - as it sought to centralise more powers.
Muscat warns against complacency
Addressing supporters during the opening of the Labour party's annual general conference in Tarxien, Dr Muscat warned against the view that people did not need to vote because Labour had already won in their locality.
"Had Labour played the same political game as the PN, 117,000 people would have been left with no reason to vote in the local council elections. They would also have had less of an incentive to vote in the European Parliament elections", he said.
European Parliament elections and local council elections will take place on the same day for the first time.
Clearly, Dr Muscat added, the Nationalist Party could not find enough candidates in the south area of Malta and in Gozo. But it was astounding that it could not find enough candidates in large localities such as Qormi.
The Nationalist Party had become a party that represented regional, not national interests, he said.
The Labour Party had not only found enough candidates, but it would be presenting an electoral programme for each locality, Dr Muscat said.
He warned against complacency and urged people to vote, rather than give in to the strategy of those "ready to play a political game with the future of the community".
"What we need to do now is roll up our sleeves," he said. "We cannot allow anyone to make us believe this is going to be a walkover," he added.
'We introduced the word surplus to the Maltese'
The prime minister also spoke about the latest financial results, saying that this administration had introduced the word 'surplus' to the Maltese people, who had previously only gotten used to hearing about deficits and debt.
Financial data published today shows the government made a surplus of €250.8 million in 2018.
The surplus would have been achieved even without the €133.7 million from the citizenship by investment scheme, Dr Muscat said. Those who insisted in saying the government depended on a cash injection from the IIP scheme for a surplus were financially illiterate, he added.
The surplus was achieved by diversifying the economy, rather than eating up from the country's resources. While other countries dealt with their deficit by taking away benefits or firing civil workers, the Maltese government was wise with its money, he said.
'We had to take decisions and calculated risks because we kept believing in our economy, he said.
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