• Shockwaves in Labour as majority slashed from 42,000 to 8,454
  • Roberta Metsola re-elected with highest vote in EP history
  • PL loses fourth seat, leaving PN and PL with three seats each
  • Independent Cassola loses out despite large first preference vote

The Labour Party has won the European Parliament elections but with a majority slashed to 8,454 votes and one less seat, as the PN's Roberta Metsola won the highest number of votes ever by an MEP candidate.

EP president Metsola, David Casa and Peter Agius were elected for the PN while Alex Agius Saliba, Daniel Attard and Thomas Bajada will represent Labour as MEPs.

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola, who was doing well in surveys, missed out on being elected, despite coming in third in first-preference votes cast on Saturday.

The gap between Malta's two main parties was reduced to three per cent, completely defying the pre-election polls.

The shocking result prompted the PN to celebrate even as PL supporters engaged in muted celebrations of their own. 

In 2019, Labour won the European elections by a whopping majority of 42,600 votes over the PN and in the 2022 general election obtained a 39,400 majority.

But this election was Labour’s narrowest European Parliament victory since 2004, when it won by some 21,000 votes.

As vote counting started, the gap was at first projected to be in the region of 27,000, but as the day wore on the figure became smaller and smaller, down to 10,000 and finally to 8,454 votes.

Labour obtained 117,805 votes while the Nationalists obtained 109,351.

Labour’s popular support has now dipped below 50% for the first time since the general election of 2008, which was won narrowly by the PN. While this doesn’t make a difference to the outcome of a European Parliament election, it is a hugely symbolic shift.

The result has sent shockwaves through party structures, Labour sources told Times of Malta. The PL had been expecting the gap to shrink but nobody envisaged the haemorrhage of votes to be this big.

One senior member of the party told Times of Malta: "This is the start of what could be a very terrible week. There will be more embarrassing court cases and we are expecting the PN to overturn a number of councils."

As the reduced majority became clear, Prime Minister Robert Abela said he was not celebrating a victory and promised to heed the people’s message.

Addressing a victory party outside Labour's headquarters on Sunday afternoon, Abela said he would be responding to the message sent by the electorate.

Robert Abela addressing a rally outside Labour's headquarters. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.Robert Abela addressing a rally outside Labour's headquarters. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

“Others are celebrating a defeat," he said, alluding to the PN.

"I am not here to celebrate a victory, but to tell you I shall be responding to your message with humility,” the prime minister said.

Abela said people clearly want a better version of Labour.

"As from tomorrow, I will be rolling up my sleeves to deliver on this."

Speaking on TVM, Abela said the party won a "solid victory" but acknowledged that "messages were sent."

PN leader Bernard Grech hailed the result especially considering the government had spent “millions” in an attempt to influence the election result.

Labour president Ramona Attard said: “We’re in a mid-term election and there were some extraordinary events during the campaign,” she told TVM, referring to the criminal charges filed against Joseph Muscat, and other associated in the hospitals scandal.

She said she is "very proud" of the result. 

It was only at 9pm that Labour minister and election minister Michael Falzon said the gap between the two parties would be of around 8,000 votes.

It was a surreal atmosphere at the counting hall as both Abela and then Grech were greeted enthusiastically by party agents.

Abela said he intended to work harder than ever and derided the PN for "celebrating a defeat".

Grech said the result was very encouraging and showed that the PN could win the next general election. 

Robert Abela at the counting hall.

Michael Piccinino speaking to reporters.

Votes are still being counted but the counting hall erupted into celebrations when Abela made the declaration. 

Labour delegates celebrate in the counting hall. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

A party agent taking note of the votes as they are counted.A party agent taking note of the votes as they are counted.

Robert Metsola (centre) celebrated with party activists at the Naxxar counting hall. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.Robert Metsola (centre) celebrated with party activists at the Naxxar counting hall. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

At around 8.15pm, PN agents cheered loudly as it became clear that the party would win its third seat. 

Metsola will keep a keen eye on the outcome of the elections throughout the European Union since a strong result for her party, the EPP, could see her return for a second term as president of the European Parliament. Her current term runs out on July 17.

With counting for the EP elections due to be fully wrapped up on Sunday evening, the Electoral Commission will focus on vote-counting of the 68 local council elections between Wednesday and Friday.

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