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WEEK ONE: Malta 2017 Election Campaign Round-Up

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News surrounding the imminent election has become white noise for a lot of us. It was hard to keep up with all the twists and turns before the election was called – now it’s near impossible. 

Well, if you’re able to free up ten minutes we can catch you right up – day by day. Here goes. 

Monday 1st May 

On May Day nation-wide speculation on the Prime Minister calling a snap election ran at all-time high, whilst Joseph Muscat declared that he would resign if the ongoing magisterial inquiry found him to be “in the wrong“. The whistleblower and former Pilatus Bank employee at the centre of the Egrant saga spoke out in an interview about her version of events. 

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party couldn’t agree to a coalition with Alternattiva Demokratika on the terms they wanted. 

The two major political parties held rallies in St Julians (Nationalist Party), and Valletta (Labour Party). During the Valletta event, Joseph Muscat announced a snap election for the 3rd of June 2017

Tuesday 2nd May

Both major political parties revealed their campaign slogans. Muscat kicked off the Labour Party campaign announcing tax cuts, improved pensions and work to be done on Maltese roads

Muscat announced that he would be contesting in the 5th district.

Simon Busuttil held a press release and cited former whip Godrey Farrugia’s resignation letter as an example of the government’s deceit. Busuttil also said his party would present three electoral programmes, one general, one for Gozo, and one for youth.

Meanwhile, students and Maltese people living abroad spoke out against the timing of the election.  

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Wednesday 3rd May

Muscat announced that five more electoral priorities will be unveiled next week, and whilst appearing on the programme Dissett he did not give an definitive answer about whether he would keep Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi by his side should he win the election. 

In separate events, Nationalist Party Deputy Leader – Beppe Fenech Adami – said that the early election had been called because of the whistleblower’s account. And over in Gozo, Busuttil pledged €10,000 for young Gozitan couples, and invited Godfrey Farrugia to join the Party’s coalition with the Democratic Party, headed by Marlene Farrugia. 

Busuttil also announced he would contest on the 11th and 12th districts while on Dissett

Holy Communion and Confirmation celebrations were postponed because of the early election.

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Thursday 4th May

The PANA committee summoned Muscat for questioning in Brussels on the 18th May, but Muscat declined saying he would see the committee once the inquiry report is published.

Keith Schembri disclosed that he had once held an account in a Swiss Bank, but that it had been closed in 2011. Muscat had denied knowledge of the account in earlier interviews. 

In a press conference, Muscat promised accountability, meritocracy and transparency, whilst Busuttil claimed that his Party will be working with immediate effect on a permanent link between Malta and Gozo. And meanwhile a typo on a Labour Party billboard drew attention away from the proposal for tax exemptions for PhD students. 

The magistrate overseeing the inquiry into allegations against the Prime Minister and his wife, issued a decree saying that the documents submitted by Busuttil on Keith Schembri’s alleged kickbacks profit was to be investigated by another duty magistrate. Schembri said that he would cooperate with the new investigation. 

Earth Garden announced that their celebrations will forge on despite the election clash. 

Friday 5th May

Former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech announced that was quitting politics to spend more time with his family, and Speaker Anġlu Farrugia said that he would not contest in the elections. 

Meanwhile, Busuttil challenged the Attorney general for an explanation on an FIAU report he had seen on Pilatus Bank showing a transfer for €1m to a PEP’s account. He also pledged that the Nationalist Party would introduce a new new ministerial code of ethics focused on corruption if they gained power.

Muscat confirmed that his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri would resign if a duty magistrate finds that there is enough evidence for him to be criminally investigated in relation with the documents presented by Busuttil attesting to acts of bribery and money laundering. 

The Electoral Commission provided dates for submissions of candidate nominations, and Alternattiva Demokratika announced that they would be contesting on all districts

Muscat announced that he believes there should be a national discussion on the regularisation of cannabis and prostitution. Busuttil agreed that he was in favour of an informed discussion based on scientific research on the use of recreational marijuana. The proposal was also supported by Marlene Farrugia, leader of Partit Demokratika. 

The University of Malta announced that no student exams would be moved because of the election date. 

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Saturday 6th May

Muscat pledged he would continue to strengthen pensions after the June 3 election should his Party be elected. He proposed increasing pensions to 60 per cent of the minimum national income, giving pensioners an extra €8 per week. He also visited Gozo and focused on the promise of increased work and business that would be created with the opening of the Barts medical school.

The Alternattiva Demokratika Party officially launched its campaign, with an underlining message for voters to ‘Vote Green, Vote Clean’. Leader Arnold Cassola said that voters were “fed up” with the current government, but that the Opposition was not providing a persuasive enough alternative.

It was announced that Josie Muscat would be contesting with the Nationalist Party on the 2nd district, as will MEP Theresa Comodini Cachia, on the 4th and 8th districts, and TV presenter Norman Vella on the 5th and 8th districts.

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Sunday 7th May

The Sunday Times Of Malta found that a report compiled by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) in relation to Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna’s alleged kickbacks from the sale of Maltese passports was passed on to the Police Commissioner for further action in May 2016.

Seemingly no investigation by the police was launched, prompting Opposition Leader Busuttil to urge the Attorney General to publish any other reports following the revelation.

In a press release, Schembri claimed to have never been informed or made aware of the existence of the FIAU report. He said he that he had never been questioned by any official of the FIAU nor been asked to provide any information to the Unit. He also questioned the timing of the release of the report. 

Muscat meanwhile appeared calm about the report and reiterated that if a magistrate were to find grounds for a criminal investigation on Schembri, then he would have to resign.

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