European Parliament president and PN MEP Roberta Metsola has been re-elected with more votes than any other MEP candidate in Malta’s MEP electoral history.

While the official results are not yet announced she is expected to have received 87,473 first-preference votes. 

The previous high was registered by Simon Busuttil, who garnered 68,782 first-count votes in 2009. Other strong performances were registered by Miriam Dalli in 2019 (63,438 votes), Busuttil himself in 2004 (58,899 votes) and Alfred Sant in 2014 (48,739 votes).

Metsola’s re-election is certainly no surprise. She has been the runaway frontrunner throughout the campaign, and was widely expected to increase her share of the vote since 2019, when she was Malta’s second most popular candidate, behind Miriam Dalli.

Roberta Metsola is greeted with chants and cheers at the counting hall. Video: Jonathan Borg

A slow-burn rise

Metsola’s name has been a fixture on Malta’s MEP ballot sheets throughout the years, having first stood as a candidate in Malta’s first EP elections in 2004 as a fresh-faced 25-year-old known as Roberta Tedesco Triccas.

Running on a campaign slogan (G─žalik fl-Ewropa) that is uncannily reminiscent of that adopted by PN this time around, Metsola performed respectably, garnering some 5,200 first-count votes, but failed to make the cut.               

Metsola’s votes didn’t see a big bump over the next five years, crawling up to 5,900 in 2009, in an election dominated by Simon Busuttil. Again, Metsola was left out in the cold, with Busuttil and David Casa nabbing PN’s two seats.

But her tally was enough for her to be next in line when Busuttil took the leap into national politics in 2012, vacating his seat at the European Parliament. Metsola won the casual election for Busuttil’s vacant seat in April 2013, comfortably defeating former nurse’s union chief Rudolph Cini, finally making her way into the European Parliament almost a decade after first standing for election.

It was here that Metsola’s star began to rise. She was PN’s runaway top choice in the 2014 MEP elections with 32,000 first-count votes, second only to former PM Alfred Sant nationwide.

Her tally improved even further in 2019, when she received 38,200 first-count votes, enough to get elected on the first count for the first time in her career.

Metsola’s European profile grows

Her profile within European circles rose alongside her electoral fortunes.

In 2017 she was selected as the EPP Group’s coordinator in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home affairs, and was appointed the parliament’s rapporteur on the European Border and Coastguard Regulation two years later.

Shortly later, she was appointed the European Parliament’s first vice-president in 2020.

She went one better in January 2022, being elected to the parliament’s top post in a landslide. Metsola’s name has also been bandied about as possible eventual successor to European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen, but with the German looking likely to stay put for another term, this is looking unlikely for the time being.

Two wars and a corruption scandal

Metsola’s term as EP president has been far from smooth sailing.

She inherited a parliament still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, trying to recover from the economic fallout of the prolonged shutdowns that had characterised the previous two years.

Just weeks after her election, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entirely reshaped the parliament’s agenda, putting all other issues on the back burner.

Metsola reacted strongly, swiftly inviting Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the European Parliament, and expressing the Parliament’s support for the Ukrainian’s plight, gaining widespread praise for her leadership on the issue.

Her reaction to another war, that between Israel and Hamas, was more of a mixed bag. A show of support for Israel in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ attack on 7 October backfired, opened her up to criticism.

In the meantime, Metsola had to negotiate the tricky matter of the Qatargate scandal, which saw one of her vice-presidents, Greek EPP MEP Eva Kaili, arrested on graft charges. Metsola reacted by unveiling a set of reforms to clean up the parliament’s act, with some arguing that the reforms did not go far enough.

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