Verification underway into PN proxy votes

A verification exercise is currently ongoing at the Nationalist Party, to ascertain how many voters signed a proxy for their vote to be collected by a third party

Debono was one of Adrian Delia's staunchest supporters throughout the leadership campaign
Debono was one of Adrian Delia's staunchest supporters throughout the leadership campaign

The exercise comes in the wake of a confidential report, published by this newspaper, showing the PN’s electoral commission having been alerted to a proxy that was used to collect a voting document for a voter who had not requested his vote to be collected by anyone.

The PN’s assistant secretary-general, Jean Pierre Debono, was chided by the same commission, for handling the proxies, which he says were passed on to him by sectional committee members allegedly acting for voters.

 But the commission said the “ruse” could have facilitated the falsification of signatures and that this was an illicit electoral practice.

Since then, Debono has denied a claim by an eyewitness who came forward to MaltaToday saying he had presented some 100-odd proxies in one day alone, to collect voting documents on behalf of other voters.

“It is an outright lie, I deny it categorically… I don’t remember the exact amount, but I believe I collected under 30 votes in two weeks,” Debono said.

Debono, who has now resigned as an MP in a bid to trigger a casual election so that the new PN leader Adrian Delia can be co-opted into parliament, also denied having been appointed to Delia’s side as a private secretary.

“Not true,” was Debono’s reply when asked whether this was his new designation inside the party.

The verification exercise into the proxy documents is set to determine how many of these voting documents were indeed passed on to their alleged holders.

The incident was provoked by a complaint to the PN electoral commission by a voter who turned up at PN headquarters to collect his vote, but was told that Debono had already collected the vote on his behalf.

Debono has denied claims that he could have falsified any such signatures on proxies, saying he was unable to verify these signatures when sectional committee members passed on the proxies, ostensibly to hasten the collection process due to the long queues.

Parliamentary group meeting

This evening Adrian Delia will convene his first parliamentary group meeting at 6:30pm, when he will address MPs who in the main supported Chris Said for the leadership.

Delia unsuccessfully tried securing the resignation of MPs elected to the House by casual election. His consultant Pierre Portelli, the director of content at The Malta Independent, was present for meetings with some of these MPs.

Instead, it was left for Jean Pierre Debono to resign his seat, just two days after MaltaToday published the contents of the electoral commission’s confidential report into the proxy investigation.

While MPs will now formally meet Delia at the party HQ, a request for a meeting of the PN’s administrative council, whose president is MP Karol Aquilina – who publicly backed Chris Said – has not yet been convened, to discuss the complaint made against Jean Pierre Debono.

Delia is also busy seeing that by the end of the year, he can see elections held for the posts of deputy party leaders for parliamentary and party affairs, to replace Mario de Marco and Beppe Fenech Adami, respectively.

Delia has not made any public overtures to Chris Said, who won 48% of the vote and lost the leadership election by 800 votes, to be integrated into his leadership team as one of his deputy leaders.

Yesterday, Delia was accompanied by MP Clyde Puli and party whip David Agius at his first official meeting with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at the Labour Party headquarters.

Party sources point to Clyde Puli as a potential running partner for Delia, but already interest in the deputy leadership is also growing among other MPs. The popular Sliema MP Robert Arrigo has declared he will run for deputy leader for party affairs.