Commission shrugs off Xewkija ‘gerrymandering’: no appeal was filed against change of address

Electoral Commission, alerted to allegations of gerrymandering in Xewkija by independent candidate Arnold Cassola, said it has found nothing untoward in its internal investigation

Minister Anton Refalo
Minister Anton Refalo

The Electoral Commission will not investigate what is believed to be an eleventh-hour change of address by some 28 Gozitan and Maltese residents to the Gozitan village of Xewkija, a suspected act of gerrymandering implicating agriculture minister Anton Refalo.

Refalo and his family, all residents of Qala, had their voting documents distributed to three different addresses in Xewkija, the town where Refalo’s daughter Simona, 19, is contesting local elections for the first time.

But the Electoral Commission, alerted to the allegations of gerrymandering by independent candidate Arnold Cassola, said it has found nothing untoward in its internal investigation.

“The Electoral Office followed the practice established by the electoral law and on the change of address information received from Identità.

“According to Article 40 of the General Elections Act, each voter can up to 21 days from the publication of the Electoral Register, submit and appeal before the Reviewing Officer so that the personal details or the address of any other voter is corrected, even if an application had never made by the voter himself for this purpose.”

Refalo and his family were identified in the latest electoral register as having changed their home address by ‘moving’ from Qala to three different residences in Xewkija, where his Simona Refalo is contesting the local elections.

Election Playbook: Anton Refalo should only vote wherever his historical stone marker is

The Refalo family’s name appears in a list of around 28 names whose addresses were recently changed to Xewkija properties which are either still in development, or not belonging to the alleged residents.

Questions sent to Anton Refalo’s ministry were never answered.

MaltaToday understands that the voting document of minister Anthony Refalo, who lives in Qala, was delivered to an address on Triq il-Kbira in Xewkija; the same address was also used to deliver a voting document to a certain Kevin Borg, of Mosta.

However Refalo’s wife Mikelina and his daughter Simona, until recently also registered at their Qala family home, had their voting documents delivered at a different address in Xewkija, on Triq it-Torri.

Additionally, Refalo’s son Andre had his voting document delivered to an apartment that is still in shell form at Ta’ Ġużepp Court on Mġarr Road, where another 11 people – both Maltese and Gozitan – had their voting documents delivered. That makes a total of 12 voters, originally residing in towns as ‘distant’ as Zurrieq, allegedly living in the same apartment in Xewkija.

Ta' Ġużepp Court on Mġarr Road, Xewkija
Ta' Ġużepp Court on Mġarr Road, Xewkija

The same pattern of new Xewkija addresses was found for around 28 people who are originally from Għarb, Qala, Victoria, Xagħra  in Gozo and Zurrieq, Birkirkara and Mosta in Malta.

Arnold Cassola has already denounced allegations of voters residing in certain villages in Gozo having had eleventh-hour address changes to Xewkija in order to be able to vote for a certain candidate. “Some of the persons really residing at these Xewkija addresses have refused to accept the voting documents of other persons registered at their Xewkija address,” he said.

Cassola questioned whether this was a mistake on the part of the Electoral Commission and its computing system or whether the addresses were deliberately changed to bolster the votes of a particular Xewkija candidate.

He said the matter should be investigated by the police as an alleged case of gerrymandering.

Minister Anton Refalo’s daughter Simona is among the three PL candidates contesting the Xewkija council. The PL currently holds four of five seats in the Xewkija local council, but only three PL candidates are contesting the election, with mayor Hubert Saliba not running this time round.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

More in Ewropej 2024