The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

Low turnout in Marsaxlokk vote shows people do not think market should close at 3pm – hawkers

Albert Galea Thursday, 17 January 2019, 11:23 Last update: about 8 months ago

The low turnout in the public consultation vote on whether Marsaxlokk’s Sunday market should close at 3pm instead of 6pm shows that the locality’s residents do not believe that the market’s closing time should be shifted earlier, the President of the Hawker’s Association Raymond Tabone told The Malta Independent.

Tabone said that the turnout, which was only around 25%, was not a satisfactory result and shows that the majority of people do not believe in the council’s decision to close the market early.

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The public consultation vote was called by the Marsaxlokk council after the council members voted unanimously to close the Sunday market at 3pm as opposed to 6pm.  Speaking to this newspaper before the vote took place, the locality’s mayor Horace Gauci said that the intention was so that cleaning would take place earlier, leaving the promenade clear for people to enjoy in the early evening.  Hawkers meanwhile opposed the change, saying that the loss of business would affect their ability to provide for their families. 

Out of those who did vote last Saturday, 684 voted in favour of closing the market at 3pm whilst 76 voted against.  A further 11 votes were deemed invalid.

The result may seem like an overwhelming victory for those who wished to see the market close earlier; but the turnout was very low.  Back in 2015 there were 3,019 voters registered for the locality’s local council elections.  With four years having passed since then, and with 16 year olds now being allowed to vote, it would be reasonable to assume that the number of registered voters is higher than what it was in 2015.

The turnout, according to Tabone, simply does not provide a quota for the vote to be deemed satisfactory.  Whilst the association doesn’t believe that those who did vote should be ignored, Tabone said that the lack of people voting was a no confidence vote in the council’s ideas.

He also took aim at the council’s arguments that the decision to close the market earlier was because of a number of complaints and so the promenade was clear; “Everyone knows that the promenade will not actually be clear because there are contracts between restaurants and tourist agencies for the latter to bring groups to the former before peak hours”, Tabone said.

Instead, he felt that there were “other interests” at play. 

He noted that in the meeting that the association had with the council, they had presented other solutions that could also work, namely the designation of the Tal-Maghluq area as a clear space – Tabone noted that there is a landscaping project earmarked for the area and that all the necessary arrangements were being made to shift the hawkers based there to other empty spaces as quickly as possible for this development to be started.

Tabone also reiterated that the association believed in there being a good and solid management system for all open markets, not just that of Marsaxlokk, and also noted that hawkers were still suffering from a decision not to allow them to bring their vans close to their stalls in Marsaxlokk.

Tabone said that following a meeting held with the hawkers themselves last Tuesday, the association will be putting its thoughts forward to the ministry during a meeting next week.

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