10 government ministers in courtroom for parliamentary seats appeal hearing
In a completely unprecedented move, no less than ten Cabinet ministers showed up in court yesterday to hear an appeal by the Labour Party in the parliamentary seats saga.
These were Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, Health Minister Chris Fearne, Economy Minister Chris Cardona, Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, Environment Minister Jose Herrera, Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela and parliamentary secretaries Chris Agius, Deborah Schembri and Roderick Galdes.
Not all the ministers who were present are directly affected by the possible outcome of the case.
It is very unusual for such a large number of Cabinet ministers to turn up for a court sitting. The move is being interpreted by some within the Nationalist Party as an attempt at intimidation.
The PL had criticised the PN for showing up in force to support former minister Jason Azzopardi in a criminal libel case earlier this year and accused it of trying to intimidate the courts.
Shadow Minister for Justice Jason Azzopardi said it was unacceptable for a Justice Minister to be present “to exert pressure on the Constitutional Court.”
PN Leader Simon Busuttil was also present for today’s hearing.
Back in May of this year, Madam Justice Lorraine Schembri Orland had ruled that the Electoral Commission should rectify the mistakes that had been made during the votecounting process and award two additional seats to the Nationalist Party. The PL appealed and the case is now being heard before three judges.
The PN insists that it lost the election by seven parliamentary seats, not nine, and that this was a result of two mistakes on votecounting day. It says that PN candidates Claudette Buttigieg and Frederick Azzopardi failed to be elected on the eighth and 13th districts respectively due to errors in the counting process.
Former PL Deputy Leader Toni Abela is no longer representing the PL in the extra seats case – lawyers Paul Lia and Robert Abela are.
The case has been put off for judgement on 7 November.