Simon Busuttil’s successor at the helm of the Nationalist Party will be decided tonight after 12,138 paid-up members cast their vote for Adrian Delia or Chris Said.
According to official figures released yesterday, a further 2,597 members cast their vote last week, bringing the total number of votes cast to 14,735.
95 per cent of eligible voters went to the ballot today, with voting stations closing at 8pm in Gozo and an hour later in Malta.
Some 6,080 votes were cast at a tent set up at Floriana's Granaries, with a further 5,247 voting at a station set up at Ta' Qali's MFCC. 816 members voted at the PN's sub-headquarters in Sannat.
Ballot boxes were brought to the Granaries at around 10.20pm and party officials began emptying them shortly before 11pm.
The vote counting process began in earnest shortly after midnight.
The first of the two candidates to gain one vote above the 50 per cent threshold will be declared the winner.
Although the official result is not expected before 1.30am and could possibly come even later, initial indications could come earlier than that if initial votes counted indicate a swing towards one of the two men in the running.
Tension at polling stations
Reports of complaints of long queues emerged during the morning, with one video posted on Facebook showing Dr Delia urging party helpers to help resolve the chaos.
Witnesses reported there was a heated exchange between Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi and Dr Delia's brother at one point on the Granaries. Dr Azzopardi is openly backing Dr Said.
Today’s election is a first for Maltese politics, as it will be up to paid-up members to choose the party leader.
Yet a significant number of members did not even bother to collect their voting document, presumably as they felt uninspired by the four candidates who had entered the race (Alex Perici Calascione and Frank Portelli were eliminated in the first round of voting).
One in five did not collect their voting document
According to the unofficial figures* seen by the Times of Malta, there were 3,732 members, one-fifth, who did not collect the voting document, out of the 18,802 eligible voters.
Percentage-wise, the highest number of votes collected was in Gozo, at 90 per cent, while the lowest rate was in the third electoral district, comprising Żejtun, Għaxaq, Marsascala and Marsaxlokk, with 75 per cent.
In absolute terms, the highest number of uncollected votes was in the 10th district, at 592.
Nonetheless, this was in line with the overall rate registered across the 13 districts, which stood at 80 per cent.
This was down to the fact that the 10th district, made up of the traditional PN strongholds like Sliema and St Julian’s, as well as part of Naxxar, Pembroke and Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, is home to the largest concentration of members.
Surprisingly, the lowest number of members involved in this election are not those hailing from the second district – Labour’s traditional stronghold comprising the Cottonera region, Xgħajra, Żabbar and part of Fgura. Instead, the PN’s weakest link is found in the 3rd, 4th and 12th districts, where the eligible voters number just 618, 719 and 720, respectively.
This region is made up of Żejtun, Għaxaq, Marsascala, Marsaxlokk, Fgura, Gudja, Paola, Santa Luċija and Tarxien in the south and St Paul’s Bay and Naxxar.
Only 10 per cent are aged under 33
Nationalist Party members over 65 years of age outnumber young members, who are 33 or younger by four to one, according to unofficial data on the party’s membership base seen by this newspaper.
It transpires that those aged between 18 and 33 account for 10 per cent of the total number of eligible voters.
Even more worrying – for a party whose objective is to start regaining lost ground and appeal to first-time voters – is that the number of members in the 10th district aged over 65 years (who number approximately 1,500) is at par with the total number of young voters (under 30) across the entire 13 districts.
Concerns that the Nationalist Party’s membership base was heavily skewed in favour of members aged 50 and over only started to emerge in the course of the leadership campaign.
Following the 2014 changes in the PN statute, the new party leader and his two deputies are no longer decided by the 1,400 general council members but by a much wider base which consists of thousands of members.
According to an analysis by this newspaper, members in the 65+ category number 41 per cent, followed by those between 50 and 65, who account for 30 per cent.
In the 33 to 50 age category, the rate drops to 19 per cent, with the lowest category being for those under 33 years who account for just 10 per cent.
*The unofficial figures cited may not tally with those published by the Nationalist Party, as in recent weeks the electoral commission had to revise the membership status of a number of voters who had initially been denied the right to vote and vice versa.
Voters age groups
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