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OSCE warned of ‘vote-buying’

Election observers told of high political polarization in pre-electoral mission

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
20 June 2017, 9:00am
The OSCE didn’t specify what each stakeholder told them, but its report stated that the interlocutors expressed confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the Electoral Commission
The OSCE didn’t specify what each stakeholder told them, but its report stated that the interlocutors expressed confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the Electoral Commission
Maltese stakeholders told the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation (OSCE) in Europe of their confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of Malta’s election administration, but some had flagged attempts by candidates to buy votes. 

This emerges in an OSCE Needs Assessment Mission report, drafted by a team that monitored Malta’s pre-election environment for three days in May following an invitation by the Maltese authorities. 

The team spoke to representatives of all political parties, as well as to the Electoral Commission, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the police, the Constitutional Court, the Department of Information, the media, the Broadcasting Authority, the National Audit Office, and the Permanent Commission Against Corruption. 

Although the OSCE didn’t specify what each stakeholder told them, its report stated that the interlocutors expressed confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the Electoral Commission and its ability to organise elections in an effective manner, as well as in the impartiality of the electoral dispute resolution system. 

But the OSCE was told of the high level of political polarisation in the country, which, in their view, could have impacted on various aspects of the electoral process, including media coverage and the campaign. 

Although no party warned that it was unable to campaign freely, some stakeholders raised concerns of potential “vote-buying” by candidates through the distribution of food parcels to their constituents, an issue that had been flagged by the PN in its campaign. 

Some also expressed concerns regarding the accuracy of the civil registration data and the voter register, citing media reports of potential multiple entries of citizens, and the inclusion of a few people who did not comply with residency requirements or had incorrect photos on their voting documents.

The OSCE said that while the authorities acknowledged certain anomalies in this regard, they emphasized that such cases were limited and under review and should not affect the integrity of the voter registration process. 

Both Labour and PN said that they were satisfied with the allocation of airtime on PBS; each were granted 120 minutes of broadcasting time for airing campaign spots, as well as three televised debates. However, smaller parties – who were only granted 20 minutes each to air their campaign spots as well as one debate amongst each other – expressed concern that they were unfairly disadvantaged. Smaller parties had also opined that their campaign initiatives were being overshadowed by the high level of political confrontation between the two main parties. 

A full post-election report will be issued next month, based on the experience of OSCE members deployed to a small number of polling stations on election day. 

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