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PN turns candidates loose on Facebook, after electoral commission ignores complaint

The Nationalist Party has instructed its candidates to feel free to use Facebook posts to promote their campaign after the Electoral Commission ignored complaints the PN raised against certain Labour candidates

paul_cocks
Paul Cocks
2 June 2017, 1:02pm
The PN claimed some Labour candidates were using sponsored Facebook posts to promote their campaigns
The PN claimed some Labour candidates were using sponsored Facebook posts to promote their campaigns
The Nationalist Party released its candidates from their obligation not to use Facebook to promote themselves on Facebook on the day of silence – one day before the general election – after its complaints to the Electoral Commission about abuse of the online platform by some Labour candidates were ignored.

The PN accused the Electoral Commission of failing to act according to its constitutional role and not guaranteeing a level playing field on the day of silence.

In a statement, the party said that a number of Labour Party candidates were still campaigning on Friday through sponsorships on Facebook posts, although the law bars candidates or political parties from using communication platforms to promote themselves.

The PN said it had informed the Electoral Commission of this breach early in the day but noted that the commission had chosen to turn a blind eye to what was happening and let Labour candidates spread their political message on the day of silence.

“It is a shame that the institution tasked with ensuring a level playing field has failed to provide just that,” the PN said. “At this stage, so as to provide a level playing field, the Nationalist Party has no other option but to let its own candidates free to use Facebook to promote themselves.”

The party said it would be prepared to withdraw this directive once the Electoral Commission act as it was duty-bound to do.

In the meantime, billboards belonging to both major parties were still visible in certain areas on Friday, despite the law making it clear that no printed media could be used for promotion.

Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola also took to Facebook to complain about double standards.

“The law says we can’t speak politics today. But PN and PL candidates are inundating Facebook with their adverts. They can! They are PN and PL. They have owned the country for the past fifty years.

“Eeee, sorry ta. I have to stop. I am from AD. I cannot speak politics today.” 

 

All-encompasing legislation

Article 114 of the General Elections Act clearly states that candidates and political parties are precluded from any sort of campaigning.

"(1) During the day on which an election of Members of the House is held and during the day immediately preceding such an election, no person shall address any public meeting or any other gathering whatsoever in any place or building accessible to the public, or on the broadcasting media, on any matter intended or likely to influence voters in the exercise of the franchise, or publish or cause to be published any newspaper, printed matter or other means of communication to the public containing any matter aforesaid, or issue or cause to be issued any statement or declaration on any matter aforesaid or knowingly distribute any newspaper, printed matter, or other means of communication, or any statement or declaration as aforesaid, and any person acting in contravention of any of the provisions of this article shall be liable on conviction to a fine (multa) not exceeding one thousand and one hundred and sixty-four euro and sixty-nine cents (1,164.69) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.

"(2) Every person who aids or abets the commission of an offence under this article or attempts to commit any such offence, shall be liable on conviction to the punishment provided for the offence."

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Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...
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