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Turnout favours a Labour victory

Voters queue outside the polling station in Valletta yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Voters queue outside the polling station in Valletta yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Just over 93 per cent of the electorate cast their vote in yesterday’s general election, with observers last night suggesting the Labour Party would emerge victorious.

A slight drop in voter turnout in Nationalist strongholds coupled with an increase in traditional Labour districts appear to reinforce opinion polls in the weeks preceding the election showing a strong PL lead, analysts said.

This would mean Malta is likely to see its first change of government in 15 years.

Vote sorting is expected to start around 11am today with preliminary results expected around noon, depending on the difference in margin.

Polling stations in many parts of the island, particularly in the south, struggled to cope with the flurry of early voters. Delays of up to three hours were reported.

Voting proceeded without incident, but the day was dominated by reports that police had questioned several party activists – including two Labour election candidates, and columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia – for defying the ‘reflection’ period. Under the General Elections Act, it is a criminal offence to make political comment during polling and the day before.

Yesterday brought the curtain down on an eight-week campaign, riddled with political pledges, scandal and some mud-slinging.

Labour capitalised on public discontent with the Nationalist administration, and vowed to slash energy rates as Joseph Muscat promised an end to what he described as “tribal politics”.

Lawrence Gonzi has consistently warned about the dangers of changing the country’s administration at a delicate time when Malta’s economy is doing relatively well in stark contrast to some eurozone countries.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi told The Sunday Times last night: “During the past five years, the Nationalist Party took wise decisions and with the help of the Maltese, we overcame massive challenges and managed to create jobs. I’m satisfied with the civil manner in which voting day proceeded. Whatever the result, the PN respects the people’s decision.”

Labour leader Joseph Muscat said: “We are happy with the response we received throughout this campaign. We trust we have delivered this message. Credibility will ultimately dictate the outcome of this election. We thank the hundreds of volunteers who worked relentlessly.”

If a party obtains an absolute majority (50 per cent plus one of votes but a minority of seats) it will be credited extra seats to reflect its votes. This will also happen if a party obtains a relative majority (less than 50 per cent) provided only two candidates from two parties are elected. Alternattiva Demokratika is making its strongest bid since its inception for a seat in Parliament.

Timesofmalta.com will today be providing detailed reports as the results start coming out.

A live blog will give a minute-by-minute report of events as they unfold at the Naxxar counting hall, while voting figures will be immediately uploaded online on an interactive Geosys system.

The Times reporters will be providing the first reactions from the counting hall as well as street celebrations as the result emerges.

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