Eyewitness: Debono had 100 voter proxies on one day alone, MP categorically denies claim

The source, who spoke to MaltaToday on condition of anonymity, said that MP Jean Pierre Debono showed over 100 proxy documents in one day, in order to collect the voting documnets that later had to be passed on to their paid up members.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
25 September 2017, 7:30am
Jean Pierre Debono's handling of proxy votes has raised questions as to how many of those voting documents were eventually cast in the leadership election. [Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday]
Jean Pierre Debono's handling of proxy votes has raised questions as to how many of those voting documents were eventually cast in the leadership election. [Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday]
One of the activists assisting the Nationalist Party during the organisation of its leadership elections has come forward with an eyewitness account of the PN’s assistant secretary-general’s handling of voter proxies.

The source, who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity, said that Jean Pierre Debono presented over 100 proxy documents in one day, to collect the voting documents that later had to be passed on to their rightful holders.

The PN is now carrying out a reconciliation exercise after MaltaToday requested the number of proxy documents that were presented for the collection of votes for the leadership election, and how many of the corresponding ballots were cast.

When asked yesterday how many proxy votes he had handled, Debono said: “I have nothing to add to what I told the commission, your newspaper and on social media. I refer you to the conclusions of the electoral commission’s report, as well as to what Simon Busuttil said, that in no way was the electoral process compromised.”

But on Tuesday 26 September, two days after this article was published in MaltaToday's print edition, Debono messaged MaltaToday with a categorical denial. "I do not remember the exact amount, but I believe I collected under 30 votes during the entire two weeks."

The damning report by the PN’s electoral commission just two days before the 16 September election, revealed that at least one party member complained that his vote had been collected with a proxy vote, when he had not given anyone legal deputation to claim the vote.

It turned out that the vote had been collected by Jean Pierre Debono.

The incident raised concerns that the proxy had carried a falsified signature, and the commission chided Debono for not having verified the signatures on the proxies, or without making contact with the voters in whose name the proxies were issued, “facilitating the possibility of falsifying the signatures on the proxies”. Additionally, the commission described the incident as a “ruse” and said that Debono had passed on the voting documents to sectional committee members, when these should have been given to the voters personally.  ‚Ä®Debono kept this practice secret from the electoral commission, which noted that it was only the incident of the voter complaint that led to the inquiry shedding light on the illicit practice.

The commission condemned the “ruse” as one that went against the commission’s rules, and dubbed it an illicit electoral practice. But it also said that since voters were only allowed to cast their ballot upon presentation of both identity cards and the voting document, there was no risk on the voting process itself.

That is why questions are now being asked by members of the PN’s administrative council as to whether the votes collected by proxy were in fact passed on to the members with a right to vote in the election.

Of all the votes collected, five per cent were not cast, totaling just under 790 votes.

Cast votes: 14,742

Votes collected: 15,527

Paid up members: 18,500

Listed members: 21,500

Debono has categorically denied having falsified any signatures. “Sectional committee members, upon seeing the long queues of members turning up at the HQ to collect their votes, would hand me proxy votes of their district members so that I could hasten the process and collect the votes myself. Hundreds of these proxies were used to speed up the collection process. The committee said I did not verify the signatures of these proxy votes. It was not something possible for me to do,” Debono told MaltaToday on Friday.

The report, concluded just two days before the 16 September election, was revealed last Friday by MaltaToday. In a comment to The Times yesterday former leader Simon Busuttil and secretary general Rosette Thake confirmed that Debono could face disciplinary action.

Debono was clearly entertaining a conflict of interest in his role as a supporter of the Delia campaign while using his assistant secretary- general’s influence to manage PN memberships. Debono is the husband of MP Kristy Debono.

The president of the Nationalist Party administrative council, Karol Aquilina, has said he may call an urgent meeting to look into the report of the PN’s electoral commission.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.