OSCE recommendations ignored as cheques delivered during election campaign

The government has decided to deliver another cheque to households during the run-up to the European Parliament and local council elections despite the OSCE’s criticism of the practice in its 2022 election monitoring report.

During a party rally last Sunday, Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted that his government’s commitment to implementing the budget includes sending tax rebate cheques to households.

He dismissed criticism of the timing by stating, “Election or not, you receive that cheque every year.”

According to the final report on Malta’s March 2022 parliamentary elections by OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the value of the 2022 tax refund cheques announced on 11 October 2021 ranged between €60 and €140. The report noted that their distribution came earlier than in previous years.

Moreover, on 3 February 2022, 17 days before the general elections, the government announced that households would also receive a stimulus cheque.

The authorities then proceeded with the disbursement of cheques worth between €100 and €200, claiming it was an incentive to boost the economy and counter the rising cost of living.

In their final report, OSCE’s election observers highlighted the ‘unusual timing’ of the distribution of tax refunds and stimulus cheques, which were accompanied by a cover letter signed by the prime minister and finance minister.

The report concluded that “such actions could blur the line between party and state and do not conform to international standards and good practice”.

The OSCE observers also recommended that to prevent the misuse of administrative resources, no major announcements of financial allocations that might create a favourable perception of a given party or candidate should occur during campaign periods.

However, this recommendation didn’t stop the prime minister from using his weekly Sunday event in April to announce to the party faithful that they were about to receive the second cheque for the additional cost-of-living (COLA) benefit and a special allowance for parents whose children continue to study in May—a month before the scheduled June elections.

The cheques cannot be considered treating, which is the practice of handing out food, drink, entertainment or goods to influence people’s votes during an election campaign, and violates section 5 of the General Elections Act, articles 54 – 56.

Nevertheless, the timing of the cheques’ delivery is reminiscent of the tactic often adopted by populist leaders to curry favour before elections, particularly when faced with growing dissatisfaction among supporters.

For instance, just three months before Brazil’s 2022 presidential elections, Jair Bolsonaro promised a $7.9 billion direct cash handout to help struggling Brazilians.

Similarly, in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced over $110 billion in additional state aid, including tax allowances for families with children and supplementary funds for regions with low birth rates, just ahead of an election he was sure to win.

                           

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2 Comments
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Mick
Mick
15 days ago

Yes exactly, we are on par with those governments you mentioned but with a more predominately mentally challenged population who have been brainwashed for generations.

D M Briffa
D M Briffa
15 days ago

The irony is that prior to the 2013 general election the PN were accused of “arrogance” and this was a major reason a lot of switchers voted PL. Let us hope those switchers have long memories.

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