The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

Government will not make changes to electoral laws without Opposition's agreement – Muscat

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 20 March 2019, 12:29 Last update: about 29 days ago

Government will not make any changes to the electoral laws if there is no agreement between government and the opposition, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.

He was speaking to the press following an event at Crane Currency, a day after the PN said that the Nationalist Party agrees with the E-counting system, but it would like to see the manual screening of votes before the counting is conducted manually. This was raised due to concerns over the process.

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Asked if there are concerns by government and whether he thinks the proposals should be accepted, Muscat said that the government is examining the PN proposals. “The first point is that government will not move any changes to the electoral law forward if there is no agreement between government and the opposition. It wouldn’t send a good message. We are examining the points as well as concerns from the data protection aspect even though there were private meetings (abbokkamenti) with the authorities on this. From what I saw there does not seem to be any major issues to reach agreement but I will let my experts examine everything well and then move from there.”

Asked if the he agrees with changes such as the party delegates see the voting documents before they are scanned, he said “I understand there would need to be legal changes and the first reaction I have from my experts is that there would be no problem to reach agreement on that point. I think the issue is more on retention of data, that it must conform with local and international laws, and I say again, I don’t think there would be a question of controversy and believe we will reach agreement.”

Asked about his promise to publish the Egrant inquiry report, and when he will do so regardless ofthe ongoing case by Opposition Leader Adrian Delia, Muscat said that he is waiting for the court’s decision on Delia’s case. Pressed and told that he was not asked about the case regarding providing it to the Opposition, but about his promise of publishing it for the public, he said: “I will keep my promises, but with respect to the courts, given that there is a case in the court which I did not open, which I understand will be decided in the coming weeks, courtesy and respect to the institutions require me to wait for that decision, see what it says and take all the decisions in that regard.”

Asked if the court does not grant Delia a copy, whether it would mean that he would break his promise to the public, Muscat said: “I don’t think the court in such decisions will just say yes or no without giving its justifications. I will first and foremost follow what the court says. The rule of law demands that the Prime Minister does not just wake up and decide what to do and do it regardless of the institutions. I have an institution, the AG, who is saying not to, I have a personal political commitment to do it, and there is a case in the court. I need to see what the AG is saying, that it does not only impinge on me but on other cases present not and could become a precedent for the future. So I need to see what the AG will say through the court, what the court will say and I will also consider my political responsibility.”

He said that if he knew what was going to be published in the part which was (the published inquiry  conclusions), it would have been enough, but said that he made the pledge prior to knowing the conclusions of the inquiry.

Muscat was also asked about the mastermind behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia potentially having been identified five months ago and about the progress made since then, said: “without commenting on the details, as speculation does not do any good, I think we must leave the investigations take their course. In order to run a full prosecution all evidence must be in place and I don’t think it is in the interest of anyone for steps to be taken and a year or two-years later when the process starts for there to be not enough evidence found against one person or other. I think what we want is not just to identify the persons, but also to have enough satisfactory evidence. I’m not saying there isn’t, but what I am saying is to leave the investigators to conduct their work calmly and I appeal, not that it is happening, but for the way we phrase certain things not to give an advantage to criminals. I am not speaking on this case specifically, and I have full trust in the investigators who are being assisted by international experts.”

Lastly he was asked about Italy seizing control of an NGO migrant rescue ship. The Prime Minister said that he does not have enough information to say why an investigation was ordered, but can say that the Maltese government always followed international regulations and will continue to do that.

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