MaltaToday | 29 June 2008 | Gonzi mum on number of election illiterates

NEWS | Sunday, 29 June 2008

Gonzi mum on number of election illiterates

James Debono

The government is keeping quiet on the number of illiterates who sought assistance in the past two elections, despite claims by MLP deputy leader Anglu Farrugia that feigned illiteracy was among the strategies used in his alleged vote-buying racket.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi turned down a request made by Labour MP Silvio Parnis for the number of illiterate voters, claiming that such an exercise is too costly and time consuming.
“This information would have to be gathered manually from thousands of forms… Since this would take a lot of time and resources, I do not see any reason why this exercise should be conducted,” Gonzi told parliament.
A similar request was made by MaltaToday was turned down by the electoral commision.
“The information you request for 1998 and 2003 is not available. As regards the latest election, given that the time and cost to manually retrieve such information are substantial, it is considered that such an exercise is not justified,” the electoral commission’s assistant director George Saliba told MaltaToday in April.
MaltaToday requested this information to verify a claim made by Labour MP Anglu Farrugia that the number of illiterate voters had increased in the March 8 election.

Farrugia alleged that persons trading their votes for money or favours would declare that they were illiterate, in order to allow party agents in the polling booth to verify whether they had really voted for the Nationalist Party or not.

Farrugia even explained how this system worked: “Let us say that Angelo was going to vote in Gronier Street in polling booth number 405. Upon entering the polling boot, Angelo declares that he needs assistance because he is illiterate. In this way those involved would have know that Angelo voted for the PN. There were many illiterates in this election.”

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