It’s common in Malta for candidates to give out free food to their constituents, but journalist-activist Manuel Delia has warned the practice is both illegal and insulting to voters.
Interviewed on Lovin Daily the week, Delia pointed out that the General Elections Act criminalises “treating” – the act of providing or accepting food, drink, entertainment or provisions which were handed out with the intention of corruptly influencing electoral choices.
People found guilty of treating are liable to a fine of up to €1,160 or imprisonment up to six months.
Despite this law, several politicians dish out free food to their constituents ahead of an election, usually with their names and faces on the packages to clearly show voters where their free goodies came from.
Recently, new PL candidate Chris Bonett uploaded an entire video of himself personally giving free food to his constituents so as to “cheer them up”.
“We ignore these laws because we wonder how important it is, which is a fair objection, but the fact remains that the people who wrote it in the law were worried that people might choose between candidates on the basis of the quality of the pastizzi they gave them rather than on the basis of the candidate themselves,” Delia said.
“Think of the insult of the candidates who choose to compete on the basis of pastizzi; they must think that they’re not feeding the hungry but that it helps them get elected.”
“It’s not about what I think but about what the people doing this think – the people offering the pastizzi and the people who go for it. It’s about the transactional nature of our political system, and pastizzi is a small example while giving out planning permits and contractors controlling out political system is a larger one. There are big questions we need to ask.”
“A life unexamined is not worth living and a democracy unexamined is not a democracy at all.”
Delia recently published a book called ‘The Third Siege of Malta’, a collation of blogposts he has written over the years with the narrative that the common good is “under siege” and defeat feels imminent.
“The enemies are at our gates and we can smell our defeat,” he said, citing assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s famous last line that “the situation is desperate”.
“However, when you’re under siege, you’re galvanised to fight back and document what’s going on. The book picks up snapshots over the past four years of defeat and brilliant resistance.”
He warned that Malta has reached “a very dark place” and that people have forgotten what the common good and the public interest are.
“If we think the public is good is about how much money we can make without any consideration of future generations, then we’re cheating ourselves.”