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A map showing the location of every locality-specific initiative included in this investigation.


A map showing the location of every locality-specific initiative included in this investigation.



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WHY IT MATTERS: abuse of office derails democracy

So, why should you care about the plethora of conveniently timed government announcements in the run-up to an election?

Let’s say you were trying to pick the right candidate for a job posting at your company. Normally, you’d post the vacancy somewhere online, hopefully on a website which your ideal candidate may come across while searching for an opening. You’d get a number of applications and then, if possible, give a fair shot to each applicant in an interview so they can demonstrate why they’d be a good fit for the job.

Picture yourself at a desk in an office with one of those candidates in front of you and a handful waiting for their turn outside. Imagine how bewildered everyone would be if out of nowhere, an unexpected applicant suddenly parachutes through the window of your office with a duffel bag full of cash with your name on it, along with more bags of cash for anyone else who’s asking too many questions about why someone just came crashing in through the window. All you need to do is send everyone else home, give the airborne candidate the job, and the duffel bag’s yours.

While this may sound like a ridiculous comparison, the hyperbole is meant to give a sense of the scale of the disparity between the Labour Party’s electoral war chest and everyone else’s. When the ruling party treats taxpayer money like a personal fund to be used largely for its own benefit, it really isn’t that different from the scenario I just described (hopefully, with less broken glass and bewilderment). The fact that international monitors are getting increasingly nervous about Malta’s democratic backsliding is symptomatic of the issues I’m referring to.

On 10 May, the Times of Malta published an article detailing how the OSCE, the world’s largest security organisation, will be dispatching a team of analysts to closely monitor Malta’s local council and MEP elections.

This is not the first time the OSCE had to turn its attention towards elections in Malta. In 2022, following prime minister Robert Abela’s tax rebate stunt, in which cheques were sent to voters in the middle of an election campaign, the OSCE had described the practice as non-conformant with international standards and good practice.

Fast forward to 2024, and we have seen one of the biggest electoral campaign spending sprees to date, including another gratuitous round of pre-election cheques. As outlined in the data displayed above, the government announced at least €112.1 million in projects in just five intense weeks of campaigning. As a news portal primarily dedicated to public interest journalism, I felt it was extremely important to highlight just how much taxpayer money the government spent on irregularly and unfairly promoting its own candidates above everyone else.

Bear in mind that a significant chunk of this total sum was spent on projects which were either directly boosting the image of incumbent Labour Party local councillors or generally shoring up support in traditional Labour Party strongholds like the Southern Harbour region. Understand that if the Labour Party is willing to spend so much taxpayer money on an election where its power isn’t being directly threatened, it will only get worse when the next general elections roll around.

Also bear in mind that in March of this year, government debt officially surpassed the €10 billion mark. Credit agencies are eyeing Malta’s floundering rule of law and rampant corruption with great unease, firing off terse warning shots at a government that seems to think it can just keep handing out funds forever without any repercussions.

Simply put, at a time when the public purse’s strings should be tightened, the government is busy scrambling to figure out how to keep itself in power, pitting itself against everyone while swearing to end anyone standing in its way. At a time when we need sombre, respectable politicians who understand the severity of the challenges we are facing and the intricacies of the fora they are seeking to be elected to, we are instead forced to make do with short-sighted politicians who use our own money to sell us lies about their competence.

Think about it: they basically spent anywhere between €245 – €303 for each and every eligible vote on the island. All of those announcements are designed to catch the attention of a specific demographic, massaging voters’ opinions and occupying precious news headline space with “positive” initiatives. It is electoral manipulation on an industrial scale, and I am being generous with what I actually included in this analysis.

To begin with, I was forced to exclude the several projects which are listed but are not quantified in the press release which announced them. Of the 58 official press releases documenting electoral announcements tracked by this website, 13 of them conspicuously lacked any information about the amount of money that was spent. Some others similarly lacked information but were cross-checked with news reports about the announcement which featured a reference to the price tag of the initiative being promoted.

To ensure that I did not overestimate the total number of announcements and the monetary value of each one, I excluded initiatives which were already ongoing for years before the election (like, for example, the €19 million the government is forking out to buy back several band clubs from land-owners who wish to evict them), various land transfers which were not quantified in official DOI press releases, and whatever projects were promised through agreements and/or MoUs but have not yet progressed to implementation stage. I also excluded any announcements involving investment from the private sector and limited the analysis to the use of public funds only.

Given the abundance of caution deployed when carrying out this analysis, I can confidently state that the amount that was spent – especially when considering projects which were included in the investigation but had missing price tags – must be much higher than our estimate.

There are international standards meant to ensure a separation of party from government for a reason. A failure to observe these standards means that any other party in the country cannot hope to compete with the Labour Party in terms of the resources that are being spent to promote its candidates. A level playing field is impossible when one competitor pickpockets the taxpayer for leverage and others do not.

Do not let this false facade of feelgood spending fool you into thinking that this government cares about your needs and is seeking to address them. It is merely a desperate act akin to selling the silverware to pay off the sharks waiting impatiently outside. The Labour Party is buckling under the weight of its own corruption, and it’s using your money to compensate for it.

Whenever you feel like your opinion doesn’t matter, remember that there is a whole government out there that is so desperate to influence you that they’re willing to spend hundreds of millions of euros to do so.

If that doesn’t make you understand just how powerful your judgement is, nothing else will.

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