The Labour Party has achieved its biggest-ever electoral victory through the European Parliament elections, winning more than 55 per cent of the vote as many Nationalist-leaning voters stayed away.

The PN is expected to win around 36 per cent of first count votes, with the rest going to the smaller parties and independent candidates.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in a TV statement that the gap between the PL and the PN was expected to be 45,000, later upgrading the figure to 48,000. The difference later grew to 51,500 as more votes were counted. 

The PL is expected to win four seats from the six available. 

The margin of the defeat is expected to pile pressure on PN leader Adrian Delia to step down, with no change in the party’s fortunes after its huge defeat at the general election.

The PL had won 53.39 per cent of the vote at the last EP elections in 2014. The difference between the PL and the PN had been of 33,677 votes. The PN and the PL won three seats each in 2014, the PN having got their third seat by a whisker.

The Labour Party also won 55 per cent of the vote in the last general election in 2017, while the PN-PD alliance won 43.6 per cent.

Cheering and applause broke out among Labour supporters at Naxxar counting hall on Sunday morning as the early results came in.

Labour supporters celebrate in the counting hall.Labour supporters celebrate in the counting hall.

But the indications of a huge – and not unexpected – Labour victory became apparent as the first vote turnout figures came in at about 7.15am. Turnout was 72.60% per cent, two per cent lower than the last elections in 2014.

The turnout was lowest in the traditionally PN-leaning districts notably the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12.

The highest was in the sixth (Qormi, Siġġiewi, Luqa), at 75.6 per cent and the lowest was the 10th (based around Sliema, St Julian’s, Gzira) at 58.9 per cent. In the 12th district (St Paul’s Bay, Mellieħa) turnout was 59.7 per cent.

Observers will be poring over the results to establish the story behind what happened, with many likely to point to divisions which have grown within the Nationalist Party since the election of leader Adrian Delia 20 months ago.

Some, however, will also point out that turnout is always lower in the localities where many foreigners live. They too are eligible to vote but usually show scant interest.

However, one of Dr Delia’s associates, MP Hermann Schiavone in an early morning post quickly said that what had happened was due to a segment of PN supporters opting not to vote.

Dr Delia entering PN headquarters on Sunday morning.Dr Delia entering PN headquarters on Sunday morning.

PN deputy leader Robert Arrigo was asked, before the result emerged, what would happen if his party was defeated heavily. He was non-committal, saying the PN generally had a good campaign and such an outcome would be bad for the party. 

PN deputy leader David Agius told Times of Malta that one would need to decide the way forward after seeing all the data.

Speaking later on TVM, he said the game had to be played until the end – the general election, and the European election was "only half-time". Liverpool would not have qualified at half time, he said with reference to the Champions League semi-final.

Sunday's result means the PN has not won an absolute majority in a national election since 2003. In 2008 it won only a relative majority, enabling it to hobble into government. 

The Labour Party opted for a ‘positive’ campaign with Joseph Muscat also pitching the campaign as a direct contest between him and Dr Delia. The PN gave more emphasis to its candidates but also picked on issues like abortion and the treatment of cancer to plug its campaign, a decision criticised by many.

Dr Delia declared, months ago, that he would not stand down on the basis of this result, arguing that these elections came too early and he viewed the next general election as his first real test since.

Turnout in the EP elections has been on a steady downward trend from a peak of 82 per cent in the first elections in Malta in 2004, to 72.60% per cent now.

Ballot papers are taken out of ballot boxes.Ballot papers are taken out of ballot boxes.

Vote-counting is for the first time being held electronically this time. But the start of the process was delayed by around two hours from the expected 7am because it took longer to get the ballot papers out of the ballot boxes. They were then each examined to ensure they were properly stamped – with party agents watching intently behind the perspex - before being prepared for electronic scanning. The first scanning started at 9.30am.

Officials said the delay happened because the ballot papers were long and needed time to unwrap.


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