Several new faces reflecting the recent leadership changes at the helm of both the Labour and Nationalist parties have been nominated to the Electoral Commission amid persistent chatter that an election will be called later this year.
Officially appointed by the President of Malta, following consultation between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, the Electoral Commission is responsible for the organization of general elections.
Although on paper members of the Electoral Commission are expected to act independently, the nominations are traditionally split between the Labour and the Nationalist parties, each nominating half the Commission’s members.
The incumbent government can always depend on the casting vote of the chairman, a public servant usually selected by the party in government.
Out with the old….almost
While there have been few changes on the Electoral Commission in recent years, now, as election rumours gather pace, both major parties have replaced some of their old-timers.
The PN, while retaining veteran Commissioners Mario Callus and Victor Scerri, has nominated its former electoral chief Angelito Sciberras as one of its five-member representatives.
Sciberras – a close aide of former PN leader Adrian Delia – had recently detached himself from the party after he was replaced at the helm of the PN’s electoral machine. However, the new PN administration, in what appears to be an attempt to thaw the frosty relationship, has nominated Sciberras for a seat on the Electoral Commission.
Two other new faces for the PN are Marion Portelli – married to a former PN official and Melanie Mizzi – an old hand at the PN’s internal electoral machine.
The new PN nominees replace lawyers Joseph Zammit Meampel and Raymond Zammit, both of whom had served on the Commission for many years.
Labour hits a snag
Labour also made significant changes to its representatives on the Electoral Commission, although according to sources, not as radically as originally planned by Prime Minister Robert Abela.
Sources said that while Abela wanted to shed Salvu Sant – the 85-year-old former Labour MP and brother of Mintoff-era Labour minister, Lorry Sant – the latter objected strenuously, forcing Abela to retract his plans.
Salvu Sant and his brother, who died in 1995, are still held in high esteem in the Paola-Fgura area, a stronghold Labour area. Abel’s backtrack indicates that he’s elected not to upset Sant’s supporters, fearing a loss of votes.
Instead, Abela ousted lawyer Noel Cutajar and former police official Paul Sammut from the electoral commission, replacing them with Richard Dimech and Dianne Galea – two close associates of his and Minister Michael Falzon’s.
Dimech is a former chief of staff of the Prime Minister’s father, President George Abela, and now serves as a member of Minister Michael Falzon’s secretariat. Galea works within Falzon’s ministry.
Michael Falzon himself used to be Labour’s elections guru, working hand in hand with George Abela when the latter was Labour’s deputy leader.
Abela has also nominated lawyer Veronique Dalli, Minister Miriam Dalli’s sister, for a seat on the commission.
The electoral commission traditionally comprised eight members, however this has been increased to ten after an agreement between the PL and the PN to include more women as members.
The amendments stipulate that at least four electoral commissioners must be women. Both parties have nominated just two female members each out of the eligible five, meaning women’s representation on the commission will still only reach the minimum dictated by the new legal amendments.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner is Joe Camilleri– a civil servant – who was handpicked by the Labour Government in 2013 and appointed permanent secretary.