Updated 12.40am with press conference
Claudia Faniello will be representing Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest in Ukraine after beating stiff competition from a song performed in Maltese.
Faniello's song Breathless won 4,966 votes, beating Janice Mangion's Kewkba to second with 4,544 votes, while Kevin Borg, a former winner of Swedish Idol, placed third with the song Follow (2,502 votes).
The winner was chosen solely through televoting with the jury being dropped from the selection process. It came at the end of a glitzy show screened live on TVM, and watched by tens of thousands.
A total of 16 finalists took part in the final which took place at the Malta Fairs & Conventions Centre in Ta’ Qali. Ballads and heavy make-up dominated the evening with the quality of songs ranging from the catchy to the downright mediocre.
Faniello, 28, is a seasoned singer who first performed at the Malta Eurovision back in 2006. The winning song, a ballad, composed by Philip Vella and Sean Vella and written by Gerard James Borg, was cheered loudly among the crowd present at Ta' Qali.
"I had a break after four years because I wanted to focus on my career and because I wanted to be back with the right song... and I really believed in Breathlessly," she told a news conference after the win. The winning singer's brother Fabrizio had also represented Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001.
Had Kewkba won the show, it would have been the first time since L-Imħabba in 1972 that a song performed in the Maltese language would have represented Malta at the yearly contest. Brooke Borg, one of the favourites, failed to make it to the top three.
Singer Mary Spiteri, who represented Malta in the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest, presented the winning trophy to Faniello.
Public Broadcasting Services CEO John Bundy has guaranteed that the winning song will not be replaced, as had controversially happened last year with Ira Losco.
Presented by Daniel Azzopardi and Charlene Mercieca, the festival opened with a medley of many of the past winning songs, performed by this year's performers.
The Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Kiev. Malta will perform in the second semi-final on May 11, vying for a place in the grand final of the competition on May 13.
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