Election Playbook: Weekly round-up

Parties battled it out over their manifestos while leaders went head-to-head during the University Debate - here's our round-up for week three of the election

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Working through University: Party leaders went head-to-head for the first time during the election campaign for a grilling on the environment, sexual health, and housing. For the most part, the third-party leaders remained level-headed in their contributions, although ABBA leader Ivan Grech Mintoff didn’t shy away from having a go at Prime Minister Robert Abela every so often. Bernard Grech was very much ready for attack, often jeering against Abela despite deafening chants of “Viva l-Labour” from the crowd. The debate certainly set the tone for all other debates until election day. The two will spare no punches throughout the campaign. 

Battle of the manifestos: Throughout the week, the Nationalist Party’s line of attack was to hit out at Labour for publishing their manifesto late. On the flip-side, the Labour Party’s line of defence was to poke holes in theirs and lay bare all the errors and typos in the PN’s manifesto. Miriam Dalli and Rebecca Buttigieg were first to accuse the Nationalist Party of changing their manifesto multiple times since it was first uploaded to the party’s website. One fatal example was the PN’s proposal to set up a Malta Enterprise office in Gozo. Unlucky for them, Gozo already has a Malta Enterprise office. The Nationalist Party responded by amending their manifesto to say that the state entity’s presence will be strengthened on the sister island. Strategically, the Labour Party is on better footing on this issue, so long as their own manifesto isn’t riddled with any mistakes. They regularly came out with new and costed proposals, despite not having a printed manifesto in hand, and to date there have been little to no technical flaws in what they’re proposing. Meanwhile, every mistake found in the PN’s manifesto may have been a blow to their credibility. These include the Malta Enterprise mistake, the pre-1995 rent reform error, and miscommunication on whether the tax refund cheques will be stopped under the PN. 

Third-party watch: ADPD was among the more active parties this week. Apart from taking part in the University Debate, the party was quite vocal on the issue of energy dependence. ADPD Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said this is a crucial issue given that Malta relies on Azerbaijan for Gas, Sicily for the interconnector, and has a power station in the hands of the Chinese. This issue is made even more crucial given the precarious situation in Russia, with whom Azerbaijan enjoys close ties. Among the independents, Arnold Cassola continued to mount pressure on Infrastructure Malta by claiming that it plans to build a new road that connects the St Paul’s Bay roundabout outside Burmarrad to an area of fields behind the Kiabi complex. However, Infrastructure Malta immediately rubbished the claims and said it never had any intentions on building such a road. 

Where’s Mario?: Clyde Caruana is a Labour Party candidate by choice, but an economist by nature. He had a couple of debates with PN candidates on the parties’ economic proposals, but he was debating a different person each time, as opposed to Mario de Marco, the party’s spokesperson on economic and financial issues. At a press conference on Friday, Caruana half-joked that he doesn’t know who would be appointed Finance Minister if the Nationalist Party were to be elected into government. On paper, De Marco is the PN spokesperson, but younger and newer candidates are being pushed forward to debate Caruana on matters of the economy. This is not a bad thing in and of itself – the candidates that have since debated Caruana hail from economic careers. Graham Bencini is an accountant, and Caruana Cilia is also well-versed on economy and finance. But the party needs to be clearer as to who is in command in this area. 

What's happening today?: The Chamber of SMEs is holding an election debate at 11am. Robert Abela has an interview in Kirkop at 6:30pm. The Nationalist Party is holding a fundraising marathon from 2pm onwards. Arnold Cassola will be meeting students at MCAST's Mosta campus at 10am, and will appear on Smash TV at 9pm for an interview.