Prime Minister Robert Abela has dismissed concerns around treating, which is when political candidates dish out free goods to influence votes, insisting that the Maltese electorate was “intelligent” enough to see past the practice.
“We have proven our levels of integrity and ethics… I think our performance is enough to convince people who to vote for. Maltese voters are mature, intelligent, and capable to see the work being done to protect people’s health and jobs,” Abela told Lovin Malta.
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 of up to six months.
Despite this law, several politicians dish out free items to their constituents in the run-up to an election. Their names and faces are usually emblazoned all over the packages to clearly show voters where their goodies came from.
It has affected both sides of the political divide. However, the issue within the Labour Party has been put under the microscope in recent weeks.
Just 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”. Meanwhile, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri’s office had been found to be calling people asking if they need help getting the COVID-19 vaccine; while Schembri was pictured handing out cupcakes with his name on them to mothers in his constituency.
It’s not just food either – Fearne had given out powerbanks ahead of his PL leadership campaign.
In an interview with Lovin Daily, Manuel Delia noted that the practise was widely accepted in Malta even though it is illegal and ultimately insulting to voters.
“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.
What do you think of the issue?