Election Playbook: Week 4 round-up

Debates were held, cheques were sent out, and early voting kicked off during the fourth week of the election campaign

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Early voting: Early voting kicked off on Saturday for those unable to vote on election day. Among those casting their early ballot was European Parliament president Roberta Metsola, who appealed to voters to carry out their democratic duty, as well as Michelle Muscat who donned a €4,600 Dior handbag with a matching hair band. A total of 8,224 electors cast their vote during the early voting session, representing a turnout of 85.15% for the 9,658 registered voters.

Debatable performance: Two leaders’ debates were held by the Chambers of SMEs, and Commerce. Both leaders stuck to their party line – Robert Abela starts with a brief statement on the Russian invasion and Malta’s economic recovery, then slips a small comment on how “others” tried to get in the way of the Labour leadership throughout COVID-19 recovery. Bernard Grech meanwhile makes it clear that the PN will create a level playing field for all through its Environmental, Social, Governance criteria (ESG), accusing Abela of lacking the maturity to lead the country. Neither debate struck too much of a chord with the public, with our rolling survey remaining fairly stable except for an upward nudge in favour of the Labour Party. 

Extra stimulation: The PL’s slight upward tick coincides with the distribution of government stimulus and tax relief cheques. The two payments were criticised for their unabashed disbursal two weeks before the general election. Independent candidate Arnold Cassola went as far as to file an official report to the OSCE and Malta’s Electoral Commission alleging corrupt practices over the distribution of the cheques in mid-election. 

Trackless trams in a jam: The Nationalist Party is struggling to communicate its vision for a trackless tram system running along arterial roads. MP Toni Bezzina said no existing traffic lanes will be lost. But earlier in the week, PN candidate Ryan Callus said the tram will take up one of the existing lanes, so that no roads will have to be widened. During a Chamber of Commerce debate he spoke of a “rationalising” of existing road space to create a dedicated lane. So far, it seems the three options are transforming existing lanes into a dedicated tram lane, taking up extra land to build a tram lane, or narrowing existing lanes to squeeze three lanes into them.  

In unison: Labour's pledge to discuss mandatory union membership was not welcomed by the business lobbies, which argued against the regressive and undemocratic measure. The proposal was originally put forward years ago by the GWU to address precarious work and exploitation. However, the GWU and Chamber of Commerce are set to come out with a common position on union representation in private companies.  

Hunting for votes: Eyes on the hunting lobby this week. The spring hunting season is set to open next month, and the Ornis committee voted to lift a moratorium on turtle dove hunting. The hunting lobby has long been a strategic voter group for the two big parties. Only last week two ministers were endorsed by FKNK, including the minister responsible for overseeing hunting and bird conservation.  

What’s happening today?: Both parties are eyeing the big stage one week before the election. The Labour Party has its rally at the MFCC in Ta’ Qali, while the Nationalist Party has their own rally at Dingli Street in Sliema, both at 3:30pm.