PN electoral commission turns down call for postponement of leadership election

PN electoral commission has turned down a request by deputy leader Robert for the upcoming leadership election to be postponed • Bernard Grech's campaign team insists the party needs to put this period of uncertainty behind it as soon as possible

The Nationalist Party's Electoral Commission has turned down a request by the party's deputy leader to postpone the leadership election slated for Saturday 3 October.

In a letter addressed to Censu Galea, president of the PN's General Council, Robert Arrigo this morning urged that the upcoming election be postponed after one of the contestants - Bernard Grech - went into self-imposed quarantine after his wife tested positive for COVID-19.

Grech is going up against current leader Adrian Delia in the election.

The commission said that the fact that the wife of one of the candidates had tested positive for COVID-19 did not impinge on the preparations and standards it had already agreed upon and did not put any pressure on those who were already well-prepared.

Arrigo insisted that with the pandemic spreading at 'an alarming rate', many party members had expressed concern at the election - 'a mass event' - being held in these circumstances.

"This is a mass event where no risk assessment has been carried out," he wrote in his letter. "Despite all precautions, it is inevitable that a large number of persons will be getting together in enclosed spaces. This is a risk that should not be taken lightly."

Arrigo said that, as a political party, the PN should lead by example in these trying times.

He urged Galea to postpone the election to another date, once the situation was under control.

"The health of our loved ones should be our top priority," he said.

But the commission said that the health and safety of its members had always been its top priority, as it put in place guidelines established by the public health authorities.

The commission had, for example, decided to open voting stations over six days to ensure members social distancing rules.

Moreover, it said, all voting stations would be fumigated, and it was inviting all members to take their own pen or pencil when going to vote, would be enforcing social distancing rules in case of queues. Members going to vote would need to wear a face mask or visor and would have their temperatures taken before being allowed into the voting stations.


Bernard Grech reaction

Reacting to the publication of Arrigo's letter to Galea, Bernard Grech's campaign team insisted that the PN needs to put this period of uncertainty behind it as soon as possible.

"Any attempt to prolong this process is definitely not in the interest of the party, its supporters and, above all, the country," the team said in a statement.

The team noted that the PN's electoral commission had already acknowledged public health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic and has taken a number of steps to mitigate the risks.

Among other measures, 18 polling stations will be set up across Malta, while members will be able to vote on any of the five days identified by the party.

The commission confirmed that all health regulations and guidelines would be followed at each of the following voting stations, with social distacing measures enforced.

"At no time will there be a 'mass activity'," Grech's team said, in response to Arrigo's fears that the election would pose health risk to people gathering under one roof.