Malta's 2022 general election reached its crescendo on Sunday, with Robert Abela's Labour Party capturing its third successive general election with a massive majority of just under 40,000 votes.
Follow events as they happened in our live blog below, or revisit our electoral coverage:
- Labour wins by 39,474 votes as it secures an 11-seat majority
- Who are the MPs elected to parliament?
- Analysis: Why Labour scored a hat-trick
- Carcades and chants as Labour supporters celebrate victory
- Robert Abela promises 'humility' in leadership
- Bernard Grech says he intends to stay on
- 'They will never beat us!': how Labour supporters reacted
As it happened
Still no white smoke
12.40am The counting hall is empty, save for a few die-hards who have little information to give our reporters.
The electoral commission has not given us any indication of when it expects to release the final electoral data - or if it will release it tonight at all. We just don't know.
With that in mind, we will be calling it a night.
Thank you for having joined us throughout the day.
PN lost voting share in all districts bar one
12.25am If there's a table that illustrates the scale of the challenge the PN faces, it's this one.
The party lost voting share in all districts bar one - the 12th, which somewhat ironically Labour thought it might flip - when compared to 2017. And that election was already considered a calamity for the party.
Malta's electoral map
12.14am Still no sign of the official results.
This is what Malta's electoral map now looks like. We'd have liked to include ADPD data in there too, but the electoral commission data currently being discussed only lists vote share for Labour and the PN.
11.45pm The parties are meeting with the electoral commission to finalise and agree on the final results. But there's a slight hold-up - we're told the PN is contesting a few figures. Results won't be issued until those disagreements are ironed out.
39,400-vote gap and an 11-seat majority
11.25pm Labour will have a massive 11-seat majority in the next legislature, up from the nine it secured in 2017.
It appears the final vote gap between the two big parties has come in at just under 40,000, at 39,474.
Agius Decelis loses out to Muscat, Jo-Etienne Abela clinches it
11.22pm Confirmation of those last few seats: Anthony Agius Decelis looked set to secure a seat on the 11th, only for Alex Muscat to snatch it at the last.
And over on the 13th district, Jo-Etienne Abela enters parliament for the first time.
All eyes on the electoral commission
11.07pm Activity is dying down in the counting hall and many of Malta's next parliamentarians are off to celebrate.
But we're still waiting for the meat and potatoes of this election - official figures, including the number of votes obtained by each party and the gap between the two big ones.
We're told that the commission will be making it public within 30 minutes or so.
Rest assured you will know as soon as we do.
Graziella Galea is in, not out
11.05pm Earlier, we noted that Graziella Galea was among the women who did not make it. But that was a mistake - although Ivan Bartolo pipped her on the first count, she beat him to the quota and is now a 12th district MP.
A day to remember for Arnold Cassola
10.52pm The tireless Arnold Cassola has obtained 397 first-count votes on district 10 and 478 first-count votes in district 11.
He says it's a record for an independent candidate since 1966. But judging by data held by the University of Malta, it's an older record than that... the last time an independent candidate got as many votes was in 1951.
" GRAZZI minn qalbi to all those who voted for me, and even for Alternattiva. Malta needs a real outspoken opposition to the money fixated leaders of our country," he writes.
Those two-district champions
10.50pm Getting elected into parliament is challenging enough. Making it on two separate districts is taking things to the next level.
These are the candidates who have achieved that in this general election:
- Robert Abela (2 and 5)
- Bernard Grech (5 and 11)
- Stephen Spiteri (2 and 3)
- Chris Fearne (3 and 4)
- Clyde Caruana (2 and 8)
- Owen Bonnici (3 and 5)
- Mark Anthony Sammut (4 and 10)
- Miriam Dalli (5 and 11)
- Ryan Callus (6 and 7)
- Ian Borg (6 and 7)
- Silvio Schembri (6 and 7)
- Adrian Delia (7 and 8)
- Joe Giglio (9 and 10)
- Robert Arrigo (9 and 10)
- Michael Falzon (9 and 10)
- Clifton Grima (9 and 10)
Of those, Mark Anthony Sammut, and Joe Giglio are elected for the first time.
Where are the women?
10.25pm A gender balancing mechanism will ensure that more women enter parliament than ever before in Malta's history - but women appear to have performed dismally in this election so far.
Miriam Dalli and Julia Farrugia Portelli and Graziella Galea return to parliament while Cospicua mayor Alison Zerafa Civelli enters for the first time. And that's it so far - no Claudette Buttigieg, Rosianne Cutajar, Maria Deguara.
It's a blow for gender equality aspirations, despite the fallback of that mechanism meaning many female candidates who did not make it will likely feature in parliament anyway.
David Agius gets an 11th district seat
10.20pm David Agius missed out on an 8th district seat - those went to Adrian Delia, Beppe Fenech Adami and parliament newcomer Justin Schembri - but has secured a spot on the 11th.
He is joined on that district by party leader Bernard Grech and Ivan Bartolo, as well as Labour's Miriam Dalli. We're still waiting for confirmation on that 5th seat.
Jason Azzopardi misses out
9.51pm It appears Jason Azzopardi (districts 4 and 9) will need a casual election to return to parliament: the PN candidate has lost out on a 4th district and 9th district seat - both went to Mark Anthony Sammut, a newcomer for parliament who is elected on 2 districts. Robert Arrigo and Joe Giglio, who are both expected to be elected on two districts, complete the PN's district 10 seats.
Metsola and Grech speak over the phone
9.44pm Earlier, we reported that PN deputy leader Robert Arrigo had issued a public plea to Roberta Metsola over twitter, asking her "please help us".
Sources tell us that Metsola and Grech spoke over the phone earlier, in a call in which they discussed the election result. She thanked him and reached out with continued support in whatever manner she can.
Stephen Spiteri, Jonathan Attard in parliament
9.38pm Stephen Spiteri secures his district 2 seat for the PN while Labour's Jonathan Attard enters parliament as an elected member for the first time, on the 4th district. Attard was coopted into parliament in the last legislature.
More candidates securing a place in parliament
9.35pm Ian Borg has confirmed that he will be elected on both districts he contested (6th and 7th) .
And over on district 5, it looks like Owen Bonnici came very close to Miriam Dalli's vote tally. The two Labour candidates join party leader Robert Abela as elected in the district.
12 boxes to go
9.23pm Unofficial results keep trickling in - we're hearing that Julia Farrugia Portelli joins Silvio Schembri and Ian Borg as elected on the 7th - but work to wrap up counting and consolidate official results continues.
We're 12 boxes away from having processed all ballot boxes, we're told.
Impromptu mass meeting in Gozo
9.10pm Clint Camilleri shared a celebratory video of his drive back to Gozo around an hour ago. Camilleri appears to have been elected with a resounding first count in excess of 6,500 votes.
And it seems he's not the only Gozitan in a good mood: there's a crowd gathered for what appears to be an impromptu mass meeting organised by Labour's Gozo wing.
Technical problems at the counting hall
9.01pm The counting process has run into a technical hitch: there appear to be more ballot papers counted than votes. That might hold up the process somewhat.
Herrera nudged out of district 1?
8.58am Jose Herrera and Evarist Bartolo appear to be the first major scalps of this election campaign.
The Labour old hands appear to have been edged out of districts 1 and 12 respectively and will need a casual election to ensure they return to parliament.
Herrera appears to have lost out to Aaron Farrugia, Deo Debattista and Keith Azzopardi Tanti, the Pietà mayor who came out of nowhere to secure top spot in district 1. Azzopardi Tanti, you may recall, had the endorsement of a certain Joseph Muscat to lean on.
Bartolo, on the other hand, is likely to see his seat go to Clayton Bartolo, who entered parliament through a casual election last time round.
District 12 stays blue
8.35pm It looks like Labour's hopes of swinging district 12 in their direction have fallen short: the district has remained PN-leaning by under 600 votes.
Labour is calling the district's five MPs as:
- Clayton Bartolo (1st)
- Michael Farrugia
- Ivan Castillo
- Robert Cutajar
- Ivan Bartolo (5th)
Initial PN winners
8.23pm Over on the PN side, it's a day to remember for four parliamentary newcomers: Jerome Caruana Cilia (district 6), Joe Giglio (districts 9 and 10), Ivan Castillo (district 12) Alex Borg (district 13).
All four newcomers look to have secured seats in parliament.
- Mario De Marco (district 1)
- Stephen Spiteri (districts 2 and 3);
- Mark Anthony Sammut (district 4);
- Bernard Grech (districts 5 and 11);
- Adrian Delia (district 7);
- Beppe Fenech Adami (district 8);
- Robert Arrigo (districts 9 and 10);
First batch of winning PL candidates
8.20pm There are 10 Labour candidates who are now assured of a place in parliament, according to the party's electoral office chief Louis Gatt.
- Pietà mayor and parliamentary newcomer Keith Azzopardi Tanti (district 1);
- Party leader Robert Abela (districts 2 and 5);
- Party deputy leader Chris Fearne (districts 3 and 4)
- Ministers Roderick Galdes and Silvio Schembri (district 6)
- Minister Ian Borg (district 7)
- Minister Clifton Grima (district 9)
- Ministers Clint Camilleri and Anton Refalo (district 13)
All these have either already beaten the quota, or are guaranteed to do so.
Other candidates doing well include Aaron Farrugia and Owen Bonnici.
ICYMI: Why Labour scored a hat-trick
7.56pm It's political domination on a scale never seen before in local politics.
Times of Malta deputy editor Chris Scicluna breaks down Labour's latest victory in this analysis.
Race for Labour's third seat in district 1
7.50pm Aaron Farrugia and Keith Azzopardi Tanti are doing very well for Labour in district 1, leaving just one seat up for grabs for Labour.
It looked like Josè Herrera was the distinct favourite for that, but it appears Deo Debattista has made up some ground and it's now pretty much neck-and-neck.
We're regularly updating our article listing the frontrunners in each district, so keep tabs on that.
Robert Abela to be sworn in at 11am tomorrow
7.35pm We've just received confirmation that Robert Abela will be sworn in as the prime minister of Malta's 14th legislature tomorrow (Monday) at 11am.
ADPD to take vote battle to court
7.32pm ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo had warned that the party planned on contesting Malta's proportional representation system (which penalises smaller parties) in court.
The party is now following through with that threat, Cacopardo has said in a press conference this evening.
ADPD looks to have polled anything between 1.5% and 1.7% nationally, he said.
Meanwhile, ADPD candidate Mina Tolu says that it looks like greens and progressives have done better than far-right candidates.
Volt Malta looks to grow in the future
7.20pm Volt Malta, which ran just two candidates in its first-ever local election, has pledged to grow by the 2024 MEP elections and to have candidates in every district by the next ġeneral election.
“Expect us to continue growing, participating in the legislative process in every way we can and be a positive, constructive force in Maltese politics, no matter the election results,” the party said.
The party will be holding an AGM on May 14 and 15.
Gloating in your rival's backyard
7.12pm Labour supporters are descending on Sliema and St Julian’s, two traditional Nationalist Party strongholds.
And there’s a gilet-wearing Joseph Muscat in the Tiguglio crowd, too, grinning for the cameras in a sea of red.
ADPD increases its vote tally
7pm It's been a good day for the greens and independents - they appear to have considerably increased their vote tally.
ADPD has said that it has definitely bumped up its vote count. The party is now holding a press conference - we will have updates from that shortly.
Parties coalesce around a 42,000 prediction
6.40pm We're still hours away from a definitive final result, but the predictions are becoming increasingly consistent. We've spoken to people in both major parties, and it appears their calculations are increasingly similar, of a gap of around 42,000 votes.
'Please help us Roberta'
6.29pm After more than a decade of consecutive electoral defeats, things are looking pretty gloomy for the PN. Roberta Metsola is probably the only bright spark to emerge from the party in that period.
PN deputy leader Robert Arrigo knows it, though perhaps he’s not too well-versed on how Twitter works.
“Please help us roberta,” Arrigo tweeted out to the world.
The nuts and bolts of the electoral process
6.14pm Earlier, we spoke to the head of Labour’s electoral office about the nuts and bolts of the vote checking and counting process.
Louis Gatt explained it in simple language.
'PN believes some are 'chosen'': Briguglio
5.38pm Michael Briguglio, the former Alternattiva chairperson who then featured briefly as a PN member, has a few things he’d like to get off his chest. And they’re not too complimentary.
“When an elitist clique tried to ruin a democratically-elected leader who happened to not be chosen by them, the PN did not just lose the respect of many of its own activists. It also told the people that it believes some people are ‘chosen’ while others are not,” he wrote.
“Instead of trying to understand Maltese society and why the Labour Party continued to grow its majority, it continued its failed narrative and assumed that others must be stupid or sinful. Those who tried to be helpful were sidelined or even backstabbed,” Briguglio noted on his blog.
How are the districts looking?
5.30pm Labour could be flipping district 12 red, judging by its projections.
The district swung blue by just 800 votes last time round, and Labour Party sources say it may have swung the party’s way in this election, though it’s not calling it yet.
District 13, which swung Labour in 2017, appears to have voted more decisively for the party this time round.
And alarmingly for the PN, Labour projections suggest relatively small margins between the parties in traditionally deep blue districts, such as the ninth and 10th.
Reminder – these are all projections based on sampling data, not final results.
5.15pm What about the Labour side? These are some initial indications:
District 1: Aaron Farrugia and Keith Azzopardi Tanti appear to have secured a seat, with Jose Herrera ahead of Deo Debattista in third.
District 2: Robert Abela leads, while Byron Camilleri, Chris Agius and Clyde Caruana appear safe here.
District 3: Alicia Bugeja Said is doing well here.
District 4: Chris Fearne leads here, with Byron Camilleri, Jonathan Attard and Chris Bonnet also doing well.
District 5: Party leader Robert Abela is leading here, followed by Owen Bonnici and Miriam Dalli.
District 6: Roderick Galdes, Silvio Schembri and Ian Borg look to have sewn up the seats.
District 7: Ian Borg appears to have dominated the district.
District 8: Clyde Caruana is in the lead, with Edward Zammit Lewis second.
District 9: Michael Falzon and Clifton Grima are the frontrunners.
District 10: Again, Falzon and Grima are in the lead.
District 11: Miriam Dalli in the lead, with Tony Agius Decelis in second.
District 12: An upset here – things are not looking good for Evarist Bartolo. Clayon Bartolo and Michael Farrugia are polling here.
District 13: Clint Camilleri is first by a large margin, followed by Anton Refalo and Jo-Etienne Abela.
5.08pm: Some indications about frontrunners for PN seats in parliament are trickling through.
District 1: Mario de Marco way ahead, with newcomer Darren Carabott also looking well-placed
District 2 & 3: Stephen Spiteri is leading the list.
District 4: Mark Anthony Sammut looking strong.
District 5: Party leader Bernard Grech is polling well.
District 6: Newcomer Jerome Caruana Cilia is going strong/
District 7: A strong showing by former leader Adrian Delia, who appears to be doing better here than on the 8th.
District 8: Beppe Fenech Adami is doing well on this district.
District 9: Newcomer but familiar face Joe Giglio is doing well, as is Robert Arrigo.
District 10: Again, things are looking good for Arrigo and Giglio.
District 11: Another strong showing for party leader Grech.
District 12: Incumbent Robert Cutajar looks strong, as does newcomer Ivan Castillo
District 13: Newcomer Alex Borg appears to be leading, ahead of old hand Chris Said.
Abela emphasises 'humility'
5pm Abela focused his brief speech on a key message: that he wants his leadership to be marked by “humility”.
“I promise you I will not tolerate any arrogance towards anyone,” he told the crowd. “This leadership will be characterised by humility. I will insist on it with everyone who forms part of this team. And I will lead by example. We are here for you, and not the other way round.”
Robert Abela at Labour HQ
4.48pm Robert Abela is at Labour Party headquarters, where an absolutely massive and not-at-all-COVID-friendly crowd has gathered.
He's up on the balcony, waving down to supporters alongside his family and top PL officials.
Joseph Muscat hails victory
4.44pm Joseph Muscat has elaborated on his earlier Instagram post. And he's done it with a triumphantly-worded missive that manages to not mention Robert Abela a single time.
Putting a brave face on things
4.10pm The PN's chief electoral strategist, Chris Peregin, has spoken publicly for the first time today. And it's to praise Bernard Grech for being gracious in defeat, even towards people who showed him little respect.
What do Labour supporters make of the victory?
4.03pm Meanwhile, our reporter Mark Laurence Zammit spent the afternoon speaking to Labour Party supporters about the win and what it means to them.
Many were ecstatic. Some were confused. One needs to calm down .
More from Grech
3.54pm More reactions from the PN leader, speaking to reporters.
“The party will continue its regeneration process. I started this process but there is more to do.”
“I tried to speak to all candidates. I’ve probably spoken to 80% of them, as some of them had their phone switched off. It’s my duty to do so, I lead a party in which everyone is important.”
“We respect the election result, the people are supreme. I will continue to work to give people unhappy with the present government”.
Grech flags 'corrupt practices'
3.44pm Bernard Grech has taken questions from reporters, and he makes it clear he’s unhappy with some of the incumbent’s tactics.
"We need to have free elections and less use of public funds to influence people," he said. “Nowhere in the world do you see a prime minister send out cheques, with his signature on them, a week-and-a-half before an election,” he told our reporter.
He made it clear he respects the electoral outcome, but that he also expects investigations into those cheques to continue.
Grech has also acknowledged that the PN may have been hurt by a protest vote element that stayed away from the polls.
A third consecutive walkover
3.34pm Assuming that Labour projection of a 41,500-vote gap proves correct, just how will that compare to gaps in previous elections?
See for yourselves, the numbers are fairly stark.
Labour projecting 41,685 vote gap
3.19pm The Labour Party is projecting a gap of more than 41,500 votes between parties, with a 55.9%-41.7% split between it and the PN.
If that plays out - this is still based on samples - it would be the largest majority in electoral history and the third consecutive record victory for the party.
Grech's lap continues
3.06pm Grech is still at the counting hall, still shaking hands and consoling candidates and party members. He hasn't given any comments to reporters, though.
Over on NET TV, commentators are praising him for his grace in defeat, perhaps mindful of the somewhat different approach adopted five years ago, when Simon Busuttil opted to stay away.
Bernard Grech at the Naxxar counting hall
2.44pm Bernard Grech is at the Naxxar counting hall. It's a markedly different atmosphere to the one that greeted his counterpart, as is to be expected.
He takes the time to encourage party agents who are dismayed by the defeat.
Getting closer to an indicative sample
2.34pm Parties will start making reliable predictions on the election result by district and individual candidates in about an hour.
Louis Gatt, who heads the PL’s electoral team, told Times of Malta that they would be in a position to start making unofficial predictions on districts and even certain stand-out candidates between 3pm and 4pm.
He said Labour wants to have analyzed the ballots from some 200 boxes of votes before making any reliable predictions. They are currently at some 170 boxes.
Malta has a total of 742 boxes stuffed with ballots from 16 voting stations that were open to the electorate on Saturday.
How are candidates performing?
2.15pm Traditionally, at around this time the primary focus would switch to how individual candidates are faring. But it’s a bit hard to do that in this election, as the lack of pigeonholes with ballot sheets means there is no visual indicator of candidates’ performance.
Instead, all the information resides with the two major parties, who get updated information every five minutes.
No such luck for us mere mortals, though: we’ll have to rely on sources, whispers and even just candidates’ body language to get an indication before official results are published late today/early tomorrow.
Lights out at Dar Ċentrali
2.03pm You can hear the Mile End music, but there's little else to do outside PN headquarters right now: the building is cutting a somewhat desolate figure in the shadow of defeat.
1.57pm The euphoria continues in the Naxxar hall, as Abela and his wife Lydia are essentially moved through the hall by the sheer pressure of the crowd surrounding him.
One of our reporters there describes it thus: “It’s like a festa procession, but instead of the Madonna there’s Robert.”
1.47pm It's a bit of a mad crush at the Naxxar counting hall now, as Abela makes his way through throngs of chanting party supporters.
Abela at the counting hall
1.41pm The Labour leader and Prime Minister is at the Naxxar counting hall.
"We now have a greater responsibility and must be more humble," he told reporters gathered at the entrance as he called for “national unity”.
In pictures: Labour holds PN's funeral
1.30pm Labour's party is under way, and it's a colourful one.
We've compiled a selection of some of the best photos and videos from the celebrations.
The Muscats celebrate
1.25pm Joseph Muscat celebrates Labour's win at home, together with his daughters.
"Malta has spoken... again!" he writes on Instagram.
President thanks Bernard Grech
1.23pm President Vella followed his phone call with Robert Abela with another call with Bernard Grech.
He thanked him for his work during the election and wished him well “in the coming years as Leader of the Opposition.”
We know Grech will be seeking confirmation as PN leader, but it’s not quite set in stone yet.
60,000 votes into the process
1.17pm We’re around 60,000 votes into the process and according to Labour stats, the party is 8,300 votes ahead so far.
That gap will continue to grow as more and more ballot papers are seen – there are more than 300,000 to go through.
Robert Abela expected at counting hall
1pm We're hearing that Robert Abela will soon appear at the Naxxar counting hall for a celebratory victory lap.
Bernard Grech to seek renewed mandate
12.38pm Bernard Grech has confirmed that he will be seeking confiramtion as PN leader.
“I will continue working and giving my all,” he said in a brief video message.
Grech said the party had run a positive campaign and was on the right path.
He's also tempered disappointment within the PN camp, arguing that the "strong victory for the PL" is not the two-thirds majority that was projected in polls a few months ago.
Cassola eyes 2%
12.30pm Further confirmation of a bigger-than-usual green vote.
Arnold Cassola says that initial samples from districts 10 and 11 so far suggest he’s captured 2% of the vote. That would be an excellent result for the independent candidate.
President congratulates Robert Abela
12.26pm President George Vella has issued a statement, saying he has spoken to Robert Abela over the phone and congratulated him for his win.
Franco Debono blames the 'common denominator'
12.24pm The post-mortem has already started.
Former PN MP Franco Debono has laid into some of the party’s tactics, noting that the party has now been trashed despite repeatedly switching leader.
“You don’t need to be a calculus expert to identify the common denominator,” he said on TVM, but declined to elaborate publicly.
Debono said it made little sense to continue trying to link Labour to Joseph Muscat.
“Nobody cares,” he said. “Those who don’t like Muscat will continue to dislike him. And those that love him will continue to do so.”
He also believes it would be foolish to pin the blame of this defeat on Bernard Grech, outgoing MP Claudio Grech or strategist Chris Peregin.
Could Greens be in full bloom?
12.18pm Initial indications suggest a significant boost in the share of votes going to smaller parties.
ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo tells us it may be as high as 3%.
“If, as we believe, this mostly goes to ADPD, then it will mean an improvement over our best ever result in 2013,” he said.
Smaller parties got around 1.3% of the vote in 2017.
Bernard Grech will visit counting hall
12.15pm Bernard Grech will be making an appearance at the counting hall at some point later today, we’re told.
That’s a better showing than his predecessor Simon Busuttil, who limited himself to a televised address following the party's 2017 defeat.
A Labour party
12.13pm That trickle of supporters outside PL headquarters has become a flood. The party is in full swing outside Mile End.
Why Labour scored a hat-trick
11.58am Our deputy online editor Chris Scicluna has been through more electoral campaigns than he cares to remember.
He offers his take on how and why Abela's Labour Party romped home to this third consecutive electoral victory.
PN general secretary: parties need to look at low turnout
11.52am We’ve spoken to PN general secretary Michael Piccinino, who confirmed that Bernard Grech has spoken to Robert Abela to concede.
Piccinino thanked all those who voted for the Nationalist Party and pledged to be an effective party in opposition. He would not be drawn into a post mortem of the result.
He said both parties had to do some introspection to see why some 15% of voters had abstained from voting.
Robert Cutajar: result 'a surprise'
11.42am A candid assessment by Nationalist Party candidate Robert Cutajar, who says he considers the (as yet unconfirmed) scale of the defeat to be a “surprise”.
“ I respect people’s decision but based on the work we did, the campaign we ran and what the country went through in the past years, I consider this result to be a surprise,” he told us. “It was a positive campaign and we did all we could.”
Cutajar wouldn’t be drawn into what the PN needs to change, saying it’s too early to draw conclusions.
Murmurs of another total landslide
11.32am Officially, neither party is willing to say what they expect the margin to be. But when speaking off the record, sources within both parties say they expect a similar margin of victory as in 2017.
One source within the Labour camp has even said the party might have widened the gap from the 35,000 votes that separated them in 2017.
Reminder: two of three polls, including one by Times of Malta, predicted a gap of more than 35,000 votes between parties. A third predicted a 27,000 gap - also a landslide, albeit a smaller one.
Bernard Grech concedes defeat
11.24am PN general secretary Michael Piccinino has told TVM that Bernard Grech has spoken to Robert Abela over the phone and conceded defeat.
Piccinino said that it was still too early to say how big the gap between parties is, as "the numbers keep moving up and down" at the moment.
Zammit Lewis: Our work bore fruit
11.21am Labour candidate (and minister) Edward Zammit Lewis believes the result shows that people have "appreciated" the work done over the past five years.
"Now we have a new mandate to continue and build on its work," he says.
It's still too early to talk about district results, Zammit Lewis added.
Fearne: 'Very clear' result
11.16am Labour deputy leader Chris Fearne says that while it's too early to dish out any figures, the early indications were“very clear” that the electorate had given the Labour Party another mandate.
Fearne told TVM that it appears this victory is "as solid" as previous ones.
He said it was important to look into why around 15% of the electorate had not voted.
“We pledge to be a government for all of Malta and Gozo,” he told us.
Get him to the Greek
11.07am One Labour Party supporter has come prepared to take a dig at PN leader Bernard Grech, it appears.
Grech, you may recall, had once said that Malta's bad reputation abroad drove him to pretend to be Greek while overseas.
Chants of 'viva l-Labour'
11.03am The customary chanting and perspex banging is in full flow in Naxxar.
"Robert tagħna l-mexxej," they cry.
Labour sources are now saying they expect the margin of victory to be "in the high 30s".
Robert Abela calls it
10.58am Robert Abela has called it: the Labour Party has won with a "strong majority".
The prime minister declined to specify the margin of victory, saying it "wouldn't be prudent" to do so at this stage.
Carcades in Senglea and Cospicua
10.51am We're hearing reports of car horns and flares going off inside Cottonera, as anticipation grows for an eventual Labour victory.
But there are still no victory cries where it matters - inside the Naxxar counting hall.
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Dejected looks within PN camp
10.35am The PN agents are appearing more and more dejected as time goes by. Labour people appear quietly confident.
On the fifth, we overheard a PL counting agent telling Labour colleagues to give the PN people time to step away from the perspex before they start celebrating and banging on it.
"So nobody gets hurt," he said.
Preparations at Labour HQ
10.25am The Labour Party is preparing to celebrate outside its party headquarters, and some eager supporters are already out and about, flags at the ready.
There’s a small crowd of people leisurely leaning on barricades, a smell of sizzling hot dogs in the air and electronic music blaring out of speakers.
Throwback to 2017
10.24am Back in 2017, Labour Party agents called it around 60 minutes into the vote counting process.
We’re now around 75 minutes into it today, and there’s still no sign of perspex banging or chanting.
Make of that what you will.
Caution within Labour camp
10.20am Over in the Labour camp, sources are being far more cautious. They're dismissing those 30k calls, say it’s too early to predict and have said they will probably need another hour or so to call it.
10.14am We're one hour into the process, and a PN source reckons that Labour has "definitely" won by at least 30,000 votes.
That's still a preliminary calculation based on initial sampling.
Chalk that one under ‘dubious’
10.09am "Look after Labourites, not opportunists," one artistically-minded voter scrawled onto his ballot paper.
One might argue that politicians should look after everyone, irrespective of their political colours. But that might be a tad too nuanced an argument for this particular voter.
Expectation grows of another Labour landslide
10.02am The first predictions are trickling in, and as expected they indicate another Labour landslide.
There are murmurs of a 30,000-vote gap between the two parties, as well as some other talk of an even bigger win, with a gap of 11 percentage points between parties. That would translate to roughly 37,000 votes.
What’s indicative, though, is that Labour sources are saying they expect to be able to call it in 15 minutes or so. The earlier a party calls it, the bigger the margin of victory.
Labour candidates scrambled to bump up turnout
9.53am Labour Party sources have described the mad rush to bump voter turnout up on Saturday afternoon, after preliminary figures showed that under 45% of the electorate had voted by 2pm.
Party sources said that after officials spent a good eight hours trying to bring that number up as high as possible.
“Until 10pm there were about 50 people in my electoral offices calling people, offering to drive them to voting stations and listening to why it is they were not going to vote,” one senior Labour candidate said.
Another said it was “obvious” that such a high abstention rate – turnout reached 85.5% - the electorate was sending a message out to both political parties.
Parties would have some soul searching to do after the election to understand why both sets of voters had shown less interest in this election, the candidate said.
Traditionally, low turnout figures hurt the incumbent more than the challenger.
But Labour sources’ preliminary reading of turnout figures is that the situation is marginally worse for the PN, with low turnout in traditionally blue districts 12, 10 (81.59%) which includes Sliema, nine (84.35%) which includes Swieqi, and 11 (84.79%), which includes Attard.
The calm before the celebratory storm?
9.49am It’s calm outside Labour Party headquarters in Ħamrun. Party supporters don’t expect that to last.
Keeping an eye on the fifth
9.39am One particular district to keep a close eye on is the fifth – both Robert Abela and Bernard Grech were on the ballot sheet there and the district saw turnout that was marginally higher than the national average.
In 2017, the district leaned Labour and turnout was also slightly higher than average.
Anecdotally, there appear to be plenty of Labour ticks on the district so far. But it’s early days.
ADPD's campaign spend: €7,000
9.34am The PN and PL spent hundreds of thousands of euro per week throughout the campaign.
ADPD, on the other hand, spent €7,000. In total.
Party leader Carmel Cacopardo divulged the figure in a blog post he published this morning, in which he again noted that the Broadcasting Authority and the Electoral Commission had tilted the pitch in the PL and PN’s favour.
Vote sampling begins
9.25am Sampling has just started at a number of tables, albeit not all of them.
Ballot papers are being turned over and shown to party agents pressed against the other side of that perspex.
Those agents will be keeping a tally of where those votes went and relaying that information to their respective parties.
COVID? What COVID?
9.23am Earlier, we wrote that COVID-related restrictions are in place at the Naxxar counting hall.
Perhaps we spoke too soon – the process has yet to begin and the hall is already looking rather sardine-like.
Hogging the Wifi password
9.19am Arnold Cassola knows all about a political duopoly working to exclude third party and independent candidates: he’s currently locked in a court case focused on that precise issue.
But this appears to take the biscuit: Cassola claims that the electoral commission is not making its Naxxar counting hall Wifi available to third party candidates.
Labour appears raring to go
9.12am Labour has already won the first race: the race to the counting hall.
It appears the party has all its agents in place, and quite a few candidates in the counting hall, too.
PN officials are still making their way into the counting hall, and our journalists have spotted far fewer of their candidates around, too.
Counting agents at the ready
9.07am The sampling process was scheduled to begin at 9am, but there’s no sign of it beginning yet.
That said, counting agents aren’t taking any chances: many are taking up their positions behind the perspex. They won’t be doing as much banging as in previous years, though – electronic vote counting means the traditional pigeonholes are gone, replaced by scanners that will run through the various counts in a matter of minutes.
Did PN's plan to keep things mellow work?
9am Our journalists at the Naxxar counting hall are speaking to agents from both major parties.
Some are questioning the PN's campaign strategy of not stirring the pot too much. They were clearly banking on Labour voter apathy, so the thinking was that a low-key campaign would avoid firing them up.
But the government and Labour Party has a well-oiled political machine, ready to mobilise their vote. We saw it in action on Saturday evening, with multiple reports of people receiving countless phone calls from Labour agents, encouraging them to go and cast their vote.
A long slog
8.45am It's been a long night for electoral agents - ballot boxes began arriving at the counting hall at around 10.30pm and they've been at the job ever since.
With a good deal of work yet to be done, agents will grab any moment of shut-eye they can, as this photo captured by Matthew Mirabelli attests.
Labour agents in hall
8.40am We’ve spotted a veritable horde of Labour Party agents streaming into the counting hall.
They may be smelling blood – the word out on the PL grapevine is that we’re looking at another landslide win for the party, although they're expecting a slightly smaller majority than in 2017.
At this stage, that's all anecdotal, though.
Some moments of reflection
8.34am In these quiet minutes before events begin in earnest, it’s worth reflecting a bit on the campaign itself.
We also have some electoral reflections from our columnists.
Manuel Delia strikes a pessimistic tone in his take, warning that “we haven’t touched rock bottom. Things can and likely will get worse”.
And Alexiei Dingli, a former PN mayor, writes with a measure of frustration about the short-term nature of local politics. “Can’t we act maturely, sit at a table and trace a road map for our country?” he asks.
Sorting the ballots
8.23am Electoral agents are currently placing ballot papers face-down. They’ve got 303,575 of them to get through, so it’s not a five-minute process.
Meanwhile, people are trickling into the counting hall. Everyone inside needs to present a COVID-19 vaccine certificate at entry - at least in theory - and the electoral commission is restricting the number of people inside at any given moment.
Where did turnout dip the most?
8.12am Turnout was down in each and every electoral district. But some districts bled more than others, judging by the electoral commission's provisional figures.
The biggest drops were in district 12 (which also registered the lowest turnout overall and is historically the most apathetic district in terms of turnout) , district 10 and district 9.
Both those latter districts traditionally lean Nationalist, though it may be premature to read too much into that.
That turnout figure
8.05am The Electoral Commission has yet to issue its final and official turnout figure, but it's safe to say that its 85.5% estimate will not vary by much.
As we wrote in our main story about the turnout, that makes it the lowest turnout in a general election since Malta became independent in 1964. It's even lower than the 90% turnout rate registered in the 1962 election.
8am Good morning and welcome to our live blog. We'll be with you throughout the day, providing election-related updates throughout the day.
The main event - the sorting and eventual counting of votes - will not begin for another hour or so. But there's plenty of food for thought to keep you occupied until then.