Election Playbook: Contention, costings, and constitutional conundrums

Robert Abela and Bernard Grech have their first televised debate while the Constitutional Court opens a can of worms - here’s what Day 31 looked like 

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Constitutional conundrums: The PN took the Electoral Commission to court in a request for an injunction after noting that some ineligible prisoners had been allowed to vote. But in a strange turn of events, the Constitutional Court - Malta’s highest court - ruled that it does not have legal jurisdiction over the case. It’s baffling to hear that the uppermost court in the country does not have jurisdiction to hear a case. It seems the Commission answers to no man or institution. Is this rule of law? 

Late television: The first televised leaders’ debate marked the beginning of the end for the election campaign. This was the first time that Robert Abela and Bernard Grech took part in a televised debate, with other debates being held with private audiences. The Labour leader arrived late to the debate, with Bernard Grech left waiting nervously inside the studio for around 20 minutes. When he showed up, Abela joked about his tardiness and said he was studying the PN’s manifesto costings. Watch a full analysis by our journalists Kurt Sansone and James Debono here:

Robert vs Bernard 🇲🇹 Kurt Sansone and James Debono give a post-mortem of the first televised debate between Robert Abela and Bernard Grech

Posted by MaltaToday on Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Vaccination discrimination: Partit ABBA leader Ivan Grech Mintoff called on the electoral monitors of the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, to deem the general election invalid over unacceptable practices. Grech Mintoff is not the first to report malpractice in this year’s election to the OSCE, but he might be the first person to report the Electoral Commission for not allowing unvaccinated people or those with a negative COVID PCR test inside the counting hall. 

Sex and question marks: Back in 2017 Labour said it wanted a debate on regularisation and decriminalisation of prostitution. Five years later, Labour is pledging a voluntary exit programme for prostitutes while decriminalising the practice. In recent years Labour received some flak over attempts to liberalise prostitution. Former parliamentary secretary for reforms Rosianne Cutajar had said that any prostitution laws would prioritise the rights of sex workers who genuinely want to work in the industry, almost seeking to normalise prostitution. But criticisms from NGO coalitions seem to have workers, as it sounds like Labour will be steering clear from any liberalisation as once planned. 

Money, money, money: You think you’re comfortable in your €10 per hour job? Apart from several thousands earned by the Planning Authority on a retainer contract, Prime Minister Robert Abela pocketed an extra €80,000 for 1,400 hours of overtime work during his tenure. For anyone curious, this means he earned €55 an hour for the additional time worked, over and above the €3,000 per month his firm was making at the time. This certainly puts our €100 and €200 one-time cheques to shame, and no wonder he lowered the tax on overtime in the last Budget… 

Opportunity costings: The PN has kept its promise and published its manifesto costings covering its 2030 vision, totalling up at almost €6 billion. The party projected it will cover the cost of its 550+ measures through economic growth, which would earn the country €42.6 billion over eight years, whilst creating 32,500 new high-end jobs with an average salary of €43,000. Naturally, part of the costings include the €2.8 billion that would be spent on a Trackless Tram system. Part of this will be covering in the infrastructural budget, while the rest will be raised through EU funds and private financing. 

What’s happening today?: The two big parties are out with a bang today. The Nationalist Party is holding a mass rally in Valletta at 6pm. The Labour Party will be at the MFCC for their own rally at the same time. Independent candidate Arnold Cassola is closing his campaign in Valletta at noon. 

NB: Tomorrow is the ‘day of reflection’, meaning that we will not be able to publish our Electoral Playbook at 6am on Friday. However, we will be working on a last write-up for Thursday night, ie tonight!