The Malta Independent 22 June 2024, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: Siġġiewi voter fraud

Saturday, 25 May 2024, 10:35 Last update: about 26 days ago

Prime Minister, Robert Abela, gave some surreal responses to questions regarding the Siġġiewi voter fraud situation earlier this week.

A magistrate had conducted an in-person site visit tied to some of the cases in question to see for herself before taking into account the PN’s claim that the Binja Silvio Parnis housing project in Siġġiewi, where around 99 voters from other districts had been registered as residing, was actually uninhabitable. Then, last week, deciding on the matter, the magistrate ruled that there “could be no doubt” that the voters in question had not taken the initiative to register themselves at the specified address, and said that it was “shameful that they had been taken advantage of and manipulated by people who were entrusted with looking after their interests and wellbeing”. The magistrate ordered the police to investigate and identify the public officials and entities “who had manipulated voters into changing their address to a Siġġiewi construction site ahead of the upcoming local council and EU elections”. The PN’s requests were upheld and the changes in address were revoked, with the magistrate also ordering the Electoral Commission to review the electoral register to reflect this.

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One would expect the Prime Minister to either apologise and announce the removal of those responsible for this scheme, but he did neither.

Instead he decided to attack the Nationalist Party. Abela was asked whether Minister for Social Accommodation, Roderick Galdes’s place in cabinet is still tenable, as the Minister responsible for the scandal.

And what was Abela’s response ... “I am more worried about the persecution that the Nationalist Party has made on 84 families.”

The journalist, rightly so, told him that this was not persecution, and that the court had clearly said what it said. Abela, in his response, tried to deflect onto another issue instead. He said : “You know who is committing fraud, the Nationalist Party”, Abela said, noting the PN’s reluctance to publish its financial accounts.

First of all, two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, the PN needs to publish them and fast, as it is failing in its duty to do so.

But secondly, someone definitely needs to answer for the Siġġiewi voter fraud.

Abela then continued in his answer. “84 families for whom this Government provided them appropriate social accommodation. Accommodation of the highest level”, he said. He went on to say that the PN was against the project from the beginning, and said that “in the coming days, weeks, they can be lived in.”

The court decision was very clear in what was said. The people should not have been pushed to change address before moving in, and should have been left to do so when they move in.

The court had said that the law speaks of the ordinary place of residence in deciding which electoral district voters fell under, and the court said that it had “seen first hand that nobody lived there, be it ordinarily or extraordinarily, and that the occupants had not even been given the keys to the properties, which were meant to be handed over upon signing the contract.” An Identità official had also been there on site, signing and confirming as a witness that the electors in question resided in the building, which was clearly empty, said the court. “The haste with which this change of address was carried out is evidenced by the fact that many of the required fields are blank, but they were nonetheless accepted by Identità”, the court said.

Just yesterday, PN Spokesperson for Justice, Karol Aquilina, said that the Nationalist Party has won all 99 cases it had brought related to the Siġġiewi situation. The cases were heard by 22 magistrates in the last three weeks. Addressing a press conference outside the Valletta law courts on Friday, Nationalist Party Secretary General, Michael Piccinino, had said this is the perfect example of how the Government uses housing and other resources to manipulate local council elections.

This whole process to move the residences of these families to Siġġiewi right before the election, in a building that had nobody living there, leaves a very foul taste in one’s mouth. Shame on those who carried it out. Political responsibility must be carried, and investigations must be carried out as the court ordered.

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