PN administrative council reprimands Debono, does not call for further investigation

The PN administrative council discussed the report chiding former MP Jean Pierre Debono for failing to verify signatures on proxy votes, but did not call for further investigation

Denise Grech
29 September 2017, 9:01pm
Jean Pierre Debono (left) seen here with new PN leader Adrian Delia, has been reprimanded by the PN administrative council
Jean Pierre Debono (left) seen here with new PN leader Adrian Delia, has been reprimanded by the PN administrative council
The PN administrative council has decided that no further investigations should be made over former MP Jean Pierre Debono, who is also the PN's assistant secretary-general, for having failed to verify proxy vote signatures in what a party commission said was a "ruse".

The administrative council, headed by MP Karol Aquilina, discussed the electoral commission's report, chiding Debono for having collected a voting document using a proxy vote on behalf of a third party who said they had never delegated that power to Debono.

"The administrative council also accepted Jean Pierre Debono's apology, where he accepted responsibility for what happened," the PN said in a statement. "Jean Pierre Debono also said that what he did was with the intention of facilitating the gathering of votes."

READ MORE PN’s Jean Pierre Debono chided by commission for proxy votes with falsified signatures

Debono also said that he will exclude himself from being involved in the rest of this year's elections for the party, which now will elect two new deputy leaders.

The Nationalist Party said it would not tolerate any abuse during the electoral process, while publicly reprimanding the former MP.

Members of the PN administrative council stayed mum before entering the meeting, with only candidate Alan Abela Wadge revealing that the commission report would be discussed during the agenda.

The confidential report by the Nationalist Party’s electoral commission accused Debono of having handled proxies for votes in the PN leadership election with falsified signatures. The report says that on his watch, Debono failed to verify the signatures for the proxy votes, delivered to him by PN sectional committee members on behalf of party members. Debono has since then said he collected "under 30" voting documents using proxies.

Debono has categorically denied having falsified any signatures on the proxy documents. "Sectional committee members, upon seeing the long queues of members turning up to 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.

The report was concluded just two days before the 16 September election, but was not divulged to any of the two candidates – Adrian Delia and Chris Said – or even to Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.

hen a PN voter turned up at the PN headquarters to collect his vote, he was informed by the commission that his vote had already been collected by Jean Pierre Debono on the strength of a signed declaration by the voter, authorising Debono to collect the vote on his behalf. The voter declared he never gave anyone any legal deputation to collect his vote.

In its conclusions, the commission said:

• Debono had allowed proxies to be issued without verification or even making contact with the voters in whose name the proxies were issued, “facilitating the possibility of falsifying the signatures on the proxies”

• Debono had passed on voting documents to sectional committees when these had to be passed on to the voters themselves

• Debono kept this practice secret from the electoral commission, and that it was only the incident of the voter complaint that led to the inquiry that shed light on the illicit practice

• Joe Borg’s commission condemned the practice as one that went against the commission’s rules, and dubbed it an illicit electoral practice.

The commission however 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.