* Smallest euro zone state goes to polls on March 9
* Both parties promise to give tablet computers to pupils
* Opposition Labour leading in opinion polls
By Chris Scicluna
VALLETTA, Jan 24 Parties running for election in
Malta launched a 'tablet war' on Thursday, issuing rival
promises to hand out iPad-style computers to school children if
elected next month.
Putting education and technology at the centre of the
two-party race to lead the tiny island state, the opposition
Labour Party promised a tablet computer for every eight-year-old
Two hours later, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi unveiled his
Nationalist Party's electoral programme which included plans to
give tablets to all school children aged between 5 and 16.
Bloggers in the euro zone's smallest country lampooned the
politicians' largesse, likening the parties to both Father
Christmas and Moses, the biblical figure who brought the word of
God inscribed on tablets of stone.
Gonzi said his government had already given laptops to all
teachers and put computerised white boards into all classrooms.
Giving tablets to all children was the next logical step, he
said, adding that pupils would in future use digital text books.
Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat told a news conference:
"Tablets are key to fighting IT illiteracy."
Both parties said they planned to use private sector
partners to deliver the computers. Muscat said his proposal
would cost 1.5 million euros ($2 million) while Gonzi said
costings for all of his party's proposals would be announced in
the coming days.
The general election will be held on March 9, with Labour,
which has promised to cut electricity bills, currently leading
the Nationalists by 10 points in opinion polls.
The Nationalists, which have been in government since 1987
except for a 22-month Labour government between 1996 and 1998,
is appealing to voters on its economic record, saying it has
managed to avert the economic turmoil buffeting all other euro
zone countries in the Mediterranean.
($1 = 0.7530 euros)
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)