Election Playbook: Week 2 round-up

Golden passports, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Robert Abela’s refusal to face the press - this is what the second week of the 2022 general election campaign looked like 

Election overshadowed by war: As candidates try and power through with their campaigning, there’s no doubt that people are more concerned by the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and whether Malta could be impacted by the war in any way. The Malta Chamber stopped issuing certificates of origin for fuel from Russia and Belarus, and many have rushed to show support to Ukrainian victims. In his Ash Wednesday homily, Archbishop Charles Scicluna expressed solidarity with Ukraine and called on the Catholic world to make Ash Wednesday a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine. Hoteliers even offered to cover quarantine hotel fees for Ukrainians fleeing war. But some felt that more action needed to be taken on by government.

Team Malta goes for golden passports: Malta’s golden passports agency took the surprising decision to suspend the processing of Russian and Belarusian applicants. Community Malta and Residency Malta Agency stated that existent due diligence checks cannot be carried out effectively because of the war. Many questioned this rationale, especially after Abela and citizenship parliamentary secretary Alex Muscat strongly maintained that Malta has strong enough due diligence processes to carry on with the scheme. The Nationalist Party criticised the move, saying that Abela took the step not with conviction but out of convenience.

Who’s afraid of the big bad press?: Abela has had a number of events, beyond press visits, in open spaces like Junior College and the Birgu market, that newsrooms simply weren’t invited to cover. Abela even held meetings with the Malta Developers’ Association and Malta Union Teachers, where the press is normally invited to cover the opening comments without question time. This issue came to a head when Abela appeared to have quickly run away from journalists after an inauguration ceremony. Indeed, the last time journalists had an opportunity to put questions to the Prime Minister was on Monday, a full week ago. This issue is merely a sprout in the grander scheme of things, but Abela ought to nip it in the bud to avoid having media coverage dominated by the PN.

Manifest(o) destiny: Week two was a week for the manifesto roll-out, as well as some typo hiccups. Volt unveiled its manifesto on Tuesday focusing on sex work, drug use, education, euthanasia and culture. ADPD rolled theirs out the day after, calling for a ban on pink tax, a fixed-term parliament, and a clearer law on abortion. The Nationalist Party’s manifesto was published last week, but many noticed a problem with one of the proposals, which suggested that the PN would taper the subsidies on pre-1995 rent contracts over three years, and then stop subsidising the rent altogether. When confronted on this, PN MPs said that tenants will continue to benefit from the subsidies, while refusing to admit any error in the manifesto. The day after, the Nationalist Party leader admitted to the mistake. 

Leaders head to Sixth Form: Abela and Grech headed to Junior College this week, where students flocked around Abela while Grech had his gamer moment. Both of them know that there’s a newfound value to visiting Junior College. Sixth formers are now a voting cohort that must be appealed to, unlike in 2017. MaltaToday was able to document the moment Grech passed through the Junior College gates, but media weren’t invited to cover Robert Abela’s visit.

What’s happening today: The Nationalist Party has a mass rally in Naxxar near Higher Secondary. The Labour Party will hold a rally at the Kordin Pavillion in Raħal Ġdid. Arnold Cassola will be presenting his nomination at the counting complex at noon.