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Yes to divorce

Majority of 14,576 vote for Bill... Their wish will be fulfilled – PM

A substantial majority of people voted for the introduction of divorce legislation in a historic referendum held on Saturday in which the Yes vote prevailed by a margin of 14,576 votes.

The result, 53.2 per cent to 46.8 per cent, was described as “a vote of solidarity” by pro-divorce movement chairman Deborah Schembri and branded as the “birth of a new era” by Labour leader Joseph Muscat.

In a televised pre-recorded address less than two hours after the vote counting process had started and when it was clear that the Yes vote had won, Prime Mini­ster Lawrence Gonzi said the will of the majority had to be respected.

“It is Parliament’s duty to execute the people’s wishes and prepare a divorce law... the wishes of the majority should naturally be fulfilled while respecting the conscience of MPs who feel it is not possible for them to approve the law and so have to abstain or vote against,” Dr Gonzi said.

In his first comments after the result, Arthur Galea Salomone from the anti-divorce movement said the people had spoken “loud and clear” and their will should be respected.

The atmosphere at the Mediterranean Conference Centre where the votes were counted was calm even though the two major political parties had mobilised their counting agents to track the result.

The first indication of a victory for the pro-divorce camp was out after an hour of vote counting although the elation was contained because results from the Gozo district were giving the No vote a strong showing.

In a span of 10 minutes the tide turned giving the Yes camp a sure victory. Nationalist backbencher Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, who started the ball rolling last year, was visibly emotional and, in a rare scene of cross-party camaraderie, he hugged Labour MP Evarist Bartolo.

Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Michael Briguglio and other Green Party activists also rejoiced as the Yes vote vindicated the party’s long-held stand in favour of divorce.

With a turnout of 72 per cent there were 230,518 valid votes cast with the Yes vote garnering 122,547 preferences (53.2 per cent) and the No vote obtaining 107,971 preferences (46.8 per cent).

The Yes vote registered victories in all but three electoral districts, although it was the Labour-leaning southern districts that carried the day with a very strong showing for the pro-divorce camp.

Relatively high voter abstention

In the second, third, fourth and fifth districts, the Yes vote was well above the 60 per cent mark. The highest Yes victory was registered in the second district where 66 per cent ticked the yellow box.

The Yes majority in the other districts ranged between 52 per cent in the seventh and 10th districts, and 54 per cent in the ninth.

Gozo and another two districts in Malta were the only ones where the No vote prevailed. The strongest showing of the anti-divorce vote was in Gozo where the No garnered 68 per cent of preferences.

In the eighth district 52 per cent voted No, and 54 per cent in the 11th district.

Voter abstention was relatively high when compared to other elections and the EU referendum in 2003. A total of 20,775 voters did not bother to collect their voting document and another 71,691 did not go out and vote. Another 2,173 invalidated their vote.

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