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Sant abstains in referendum

Dr Alfred Sant showing his unused referendum voting document as he came out of the primary school in Brared Street, Birkirkara, where he voted for local councillors

Dr Alfred Sant showing his unused referendum voting document as he came out of the primary school in Brared Street, Birkirkara, where he voted for local councillors

Labour leader Alfred Sant did not vote in the referendum yesterday in line with his party's directive to voters either to vote No, to invalidate their vote, or to abstain.

However Dr Sant voted in the election for the Birkirkara council. Local elections in 22 other localities were held simultaneously with the referendum.

The 13 seats for the local council in Birkirkara, Malta's most populous locality, are being contested by ten Nationalist candidates, five Labour candidates, a candidate for Alternattiva Demokratika and two independents. In the outgoing council the PN had eight seats to the MLP's five.

The Prime Minister, who has been leading the campaign for a Yes vote, interpreted Dr Sant's move as "a personal boycott of the referendum".

"It had always been his wish to boycott the referendum and he has personally done so," Dr Fenech Adami said.

Dr Fenech Adami described the 47 per cent turnout by 2 p.m. as good.

Both Dr Sant and Dr Fenech Adami voted at Anthony Valletta Primary School in Brared Street, Birkirkara, but in different rooms.

Dr Fenech Adami, who was accompanied by his wife Mary, cast his two votes - in the referendum and for the local council - at 10.40 a.m. while Dr Sant cast his local council vote at 3.30 p.m.

When Dr Fenech Adami went to cast his vote, he was greeted by about 40 foreign newsmen, who blocked the entrance of the room where the Prime Minister and Mrs Fenech Adami voted.

Many of the foreign cameramen did not succeed to get photos or footage.

Mrs Fenech Adami appeared tense with all the confusion and while she walked back home accompanied by friends, the Prime Minister jumped into his car, not giving journalists his usual comment after casting his vote, although he mumbled to a foreign journalist that he was convinced of a Yes result.

There were also a large number of foreign journalists covering Dr Sant, although not as many as those covering the Prime Minister.

Dr Sant, however, was welcomed by a much larger number of supporters, who were waiting for him and greeted him with applause and shouts of Viva Malta and Viva Fredu, on his arrival and as he came out of the school.

Unlike in other elections, both local and general, policemen outside schools did not allow photographers and cameramen within 50 metres of polling stations, making it difficult for them to take photos and footage of people going in to vote.

One foreign journalist commented that this situation was worse than in Iraq during the recent presidential election.

A Dutch journalist commented that she had never seen as many blue and gold starred flags of the European Union all together at one single event as she had seen for the mass meeting at the Luxol Ground in St Andrews last Thursday.

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