Updated - The Nationalist Party has regained control of Mosta council after a close contest with the Labour Party which was only decided when the last candidates fell and their votes were re-distributed according to voter preferences.

Mosta was the focus of the most intense campaigning in the run-up to last Saturday's local council elections, with the PN intent on regaining it after losing it to Labour four years ago. The PL itself acknowledged that the council had not lived up to people's expectations, and it presented a new team this time around.

After the first count vote late yesterday, the PL had a relative majority – with a slender 14-vote lead over the PN.

But contrary to general elections, the allocation of seats in local councils is determined by voter preferences at the last count.

Vote-counting was complicated in that local council elections have a degree of cross-party voting and the contest also involved an independent candidate and a candidate from Alternattiva.

The pendulum had been swinging during the day, but matters started to gradually improve for the PN, especially when independent candidate Paul Agius was eliminated and the bulk of his votes were inherited by the PN, giving the party an advantage of about 30 votes on the 10th count.

The PN was put on course for victory when AD candidate Robert Callus was eliminated and his 286 votes were distributed, with most preferences going to Nationalist candidates, giving the PN a lead of 146.

The PN victory means that Dr Shirley Farrugia is the new mayor, since she won most votes among the Pn candidates - 1,367 votes at the first count. The last Nationalist Mayor, Joe de Martino, came second on 885. The outgoing Labour mayor, Dr Paul Chetcuti Caruana, did not seek re-election, and the darling of the PL camp was newcomer Alex Muscat who won 2097 at the first count, almost four times more than the nearest PL candidate.

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