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Blog: Muscat sworn in as Prime Minister

Updates from Castille, the counting hall and beyond

One day after the Labour Party's resounding electoral win, the vote counting process is still underway in Naxxar. 

Joseph Muscat was sworn in as Prime Minister in triumphant fashion at the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta, with crowds packing St George's and Castile squares and lining the streets to applaud the PL leader. 

Other key events: 

  • PN leader Simon Busuttil announced that he, his deputies and the party's executive council would be tendering their resignation. Dr Busuttil will continue as party leader until a successor is appointed.
  • Dr Muscat called for Malta to heal the political rift that the "divisive" electoral campaign had caused and vowed not to "treat people like flies" despite the PL's massive mandate. 
  • A marriage equality bill will be the first piece of legislation tabled in parliament once it is convened later this month. 
  • A new Cabinet is likely to be appointed by the end of the week. 

The live blog has now ended. Scroll from the bottom up to read updates in chronological order.  

 

3.12pm Vote counting will go on through the day and into the evening, but it's time for the curtain to fall on this live blog. We'll be keeping you updated with elected candidates as the vote totals come in, as well any other political news as it arises.

Thank you for keeping us company over the past hours. Have a great afternoon. 

3pm The Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri wants everyone to know that it's "back to the office". We're happy to oblige. The other gentleman in the photo is his deputy Mark Farrugia. 

Photo: Facebook/Keith SchembriPhoto: Facebook/Keith Schembri

2.52pm But this is all conjecture at this stage - the vote counting process can take forever to wrap up. The 9th District is entering its third count now - in 2013, it took 22counts to wrap up. Counting on the 10th District was also a lengthy affair - 21 counts long, in fact.  

2.48pm This election might also spell the end for Francis Zammit Dimech's political career. The veteran politician - this is his 9th electoral campaign - is in the same boat as George Pullicino, give or take 100 votes.  

2.45pm The slow and painful counting process is still underway, "but on many districts it has reached the frustrating stage where each count only sees a few dozen vote being reallocated," writes Vanessa Macdonald. "Three districts are still on the second count, while the 11th district is well ahead of the rest, already on the 11th count."

2.39pm  But while it's all smiles in the Callus camp, George Pullicino is in for a rough week. He's got fewer than 500 votes after the second count on the 9th, with Robert Arrigo, Ivan Bartolo, Albert Buttigieg, Noel Muscat, Matthews Portelli and Francis Zammit Dimech all ahead of him. 

Things aren't looking much better for him on the 10th district, where he's neck-and-neck with Marlene Farrugia, Karl Gouder, Nick Refalo and Francis Zammit Dimech in the 10th, with Robert Arrigo already elected. 

2.37pm The PN's Ryan Callus has been reelected on the 6th District, Jacob Borg tells me from Naxxar.

2.31pm We've got a full report on Dr Busuttil's press conference up on our site. You can read it here.

2.30pm: "Saturday's result does not mean that they [Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri] have suddenly been granted a pardon. Investigations [into corruption claims] will continue."  

2.27pm: PN pre-electoral surveys broadly reflected those published by independent media outlets, Dr Busuttil says, with a large chunk of undecided voters.

2.24pm: Dr Busuttil: "God forbid the PN becomes like Joseph Muscat's party." He expresses hope that his successor will be the "standard bearer" for the politics he pushed as PN leader. 

2.21pm: Dr Busuttil: "Saturday's result does not make the good bad, or the bad good. But in a democracy every must bow their head to the will of the people." 

2.18pm: Dr Busuttil is taking questions from reporters now. He reiterates that he and his colleagues were convinced they were on track to victory, but declines to discuss the reasons why that victory remained elusive.

2.15pm News of Dr Busuttil's resignation prompts massive cheers from PL supporters at the Naxxar counting hall, Jacob Borg tells me.

2.12pm: The PN's executive committee will also tender its resignation. Dr Busuttil will continue as party leader until the PN elects its new chief.

He notes that during his time as leadership, "we did not saddle the party with a single euro in debt."

2.09pm: Simon Busuttil announces his resignation. "The party must take stock of the defeat and the first step is finding new leadership. I take full responsibility for the electoral result and I confirm I will no longer lead the party." 

2.08pm: SB: I tell the 135,000 people who voted for us that what we believe in is still valid. Although you are a minority, you are an important one and the PN will continue to represent that which you believe in. 

2.06pm Simon Busuttil has taken the stage: I am proud of what we have done and that our message was built on values we strongly believe in - honesty and integrity. 

2.03pm Simon Busuttil is due to appear before the media at the PN headquarters any minute. 

The Malta Independent this morning reported that he and his two deputy leaders, Beppe Fenech Adami and Mario de Marco, are expected to tender their resignation today.

1.52pm Things aren't looking good for Manuel Mallia, Franco Mercieca and Deborah Schembri, I'm being told. 

They might still make it into parliament - much will also depend on which districts leading candidates in their districts might relinquish - but it's going to be a bit more nerve-wracking than they were hoping. 

1.41pm District 4: "There are no fewer than three Labour contenders for the 5th District after Joseph Muscat’s surplus votes were passed on," Vanessa Macdonald tells me. "Owen Bonnici, Julia Farrugia Portelli and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi are literally only a few dozen votes from each other. Of course, much will depend on which district Dr Muscat will relinquish – the 2nd or the 5th."

1.39pm In District 3, Chris Fearne's (PL) 799 surplus votes were spread across all the candidates. At the moment, Carmelo Abela is in pole position for the second Labour seat.

1.35pm Here's a video of the Prime Minister and his family at the OPM window, in case you missed it. 

Video: Ivan MartinVideo: Ivan Martin

1.32pm As Dr Muscat and his family are ushered inside, the camera pans back to the exterior. Valletta 2018 chairman Jason Micallef is at one of the windows, pumping his arms in celebration.   

1.29pm Dr Muscat appears at a window at the Auberge de Castille, and the crowd goes wild. Horns, flares, flags, music: it's all happening just across the road from our Valletta offices.

1.28pm Back to the counting hall. Labour candidate Silvio Parnis has just been reelected on the 4th District. 

1.25pm Valletta is a sea of red, as these videos by Kurt Sansone illustrate. 

Video: Kurt SansoneVideo: Kurt Sansone
Video: Kurt SansoneVideo: Kurt Sansone

1.23pm A brief aside - PN leader Simon Busuttil will be addressing a press conference at 2pm. We will of course keep you updated as that happens.

1.21pm And on to District 2, where counting agents have completed the second count. Helena Dalli and Joe Mizzi got more than 3,000 votes each from the 10,612 surplus votes amassed by Joseph Muscat, making them the frontrunners for Labour seats. They're just a few hundred shy of the quota. 

1.18pm Back to the Naxxar counting hall. Let's start with District 1.

Freeport Corporation chairman Aaron Farrugia is just a few hundred votes shy of the quota by the 3rd count, with Deo Debattista the only other candidate still breathing down his neck , though it looks unlikely that he'll manage to overtake him.

In the Nationalist camp, Claudio Grech and Paula Mifsud Bonnici are both inheriting votes but very slowly, and with only 897 other PN votes to inherit in this district, it is not looking good.

1.14pm Live TV gold just a minute ago, as a TVM reporter asks an elderly lady in the crowd why she's there. 

To kill the others," she says (hopefully) metaphorically. 

"Yes, let's be a bit more cautious, the Prime Minister has called for unity," comes the taken back reply. 

1.08pm Castille square has been packed for hours already. Vanessa Macdonald snapped these two photos as she made her way through the crowd.

Photos: Vanessa MacDonaldPhotos: Vanessa MacDonald

1.02pm Dr Muscat and his family are now making their way to Castille, waving to the cheering crowds as they head down Republic Street. You can watch it live in the video below. 

[facebook_video video_url="https://www.facebook.com/josephmuscatdotcom/videos/10156314433774741"][/facebook_video]

12.59pm Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar is applauded by the St George's square crowd. We even got it on camera for posterity's sake. 

Video: Ivan MartinVideo: Ivan Martin

12.54pm We all know Franco Debono's phone rarely stops ringing. Well, it seems like it's now buzzing with text messages from disillusioned PN supporters urging him to return to the party, if the screenshots he's uploaded to his Facebook page are to be believed.    

   

Photo: Franco Debono/FacebookPhoto: Franco Debono/Facebook

12.50pm News from the other end of Europe: one of the three attackers involved in Saturday night's London Bridge incident had an Irish ID card, Irish national broadcaster RTE has reported. 

12.41pm PL supporters are patiently waiting for the Prime Minister to exit the palace. 

In his comments to the media, Dr Muscat emphasised the need for Malta to come together following the divisive electoral campaign and said he would not be "treating people like flies", despite the massive PL win. 

A look back at his first swearing-in as Prime Minister back in 2013 shows he said similar things back then.  Read the 2013 report by Kurt Sansone here.

12.35pm Times of Malta reader Eve Fekete herself busy yesterday by photographing Labour celebrations at Spinola Bay. You can see some of her shots by scrolling to the right of the main video at the top of this page - cracking photos Eve!

12.26pm A marriage equality bill will be the first law to be put on parliament's agenda, Dr Muscat says.

12.20pm Dr Muscat gives his first comments as a second-term Prime Minister: "My priority is to unite the country. We have huge potential but we need to erase the divisiveness this campaign has brought about. There are people with potential on either side."

"Irrespective of the electoral result - which yes, was the biggest ever - this will not lead to us treating people like flies. It places an even greater responsibility on our shoulders. 

"I will be working with all those people of goodwill who are willing to put Malta first. We are all Malta. We are all Malta." 

Dr Muscat said that he would be appointing his Cabinet at the end of the week, and hinted that it would contain some new faces. 

12.17pm Dr Muscat and his family are now at the palace balcony. Fireworks cloud the air as cheers ring out. 

Photo: Jonathan BorgPhoto: Jonathan Borg

12.14pm The crowd outside has broken out into an impromptu rendition of the Maltese national anthem. 

12.13pm Jacob Borg is at the counting hall in Naxxar. Chants broke out there the moment Dr Muscat was sworn in, he tells us. 

12.11pm Joseph Muscat has been sworn in as Prime Minister of Malta, following the PL's resounding electoral win. President Coleiro Preca signs the writ as horns blare outside and camera shutters click in the room. Dr Muscat kisses the cross, signs on the dotted line, and is officially returned to power. 

Photo: DOI/Reuben PiscopoPhoto: DOI/Reuben Piscopo

12.07pm President Coleiro Preca and Dr Muscat make their way into the palace hall. Behind them, Dr Muscat's wife and children, Louis Grech and a beaming Chris Cardona. Handshakes all round. 

12.04pm While we wait for things to get started in Valletta, let's take a look at what's going on in Naxxar

Former PN whip David Agius has inherited almost 3,000 votes from Simon Busuttil in the 11th District, putting him within sight of a seat. Edwin Vassallo is in second place at the moment, with 1,764 votes after the second count.

12pm We're minutes away from the start of the swearing-in ceremony. The crowd outside waits with bated breath. 

11.55am A journalist inside the palace watches Dr Muscat's victory parade on his mobile phone. "The crowd outside can be heard singing and chanting his name from inside," says Ivan Martin. 

Photo: Ivan MartinPhoto: Ivan Martin

11.52am Those looking for some information about feelings inside the PN camp should have a read of this. Ivan Camilleri reports that party insiders were taken aback by the scale of the defeat.

11.45am The Muscat family reaches St George's square, and the noise becomes deafening, with horns screeching at pitches that would make those World Cup 2010 vuvuzelas blush. 

11.37am We've been sent this photo of the view of Castille square from inside the auberge itself. Meanwhile, Dr Muscat's parents have made it to the palace. 

The view of Castille square from inside the OPM.The view of Castille square from inside the OPM.

In other news, a correction. I previously listed Mark Causon as an AD candidate. He in fact contested with Labour. Thanks to Matthew Ciantar for pointing this out. 

11.33am Here's a better photo of Keith Schembri at the ceremony, accompanied by civil service head Mario Cutajar. Hearty pats on the back as they join PL executive members in the hall, Ivan Martin tells us.

Photo: Ivan MartinPhoto: Ivan Martin

11.32am We've linked up to Muscat's Facebook Live feed for the swearing in ceremony. You can watch it in the video at the top of the page. 

11.27am Joseph Muscat, his wife Michelle and two children are walking down Republic Street towards the Grandmaster's Palace. Barricades on either side pen supporters to either side of them as the confirmed PM soaks it all up. 

11.23am This webcam still image gives you an idea of the size of the crowd in St George's square. 

Photo: Still from Skyline webcamPhoto: Still from Skyline webcam
Video: Jonathan BorgVideo: Jonathan Borg

11.21am Edward Scicluna is the first MP elected through inherited votes. . He got 3,665 first count votes but needed to inherit votes to get him past the 4,147 quota. The former Finance Minister got over half of Ian Borg’s surplus votes, ensuring his return to parliament.

11.17am A quick dash to the Naxxar counting hall, where the second count of District 4 saw not a single one of Chris Fearne's surplus votes go to district rival Konrad Mizzi.  

District 4 comprises Fgura, Paola, Gudja and Tarxien - which happen to be the towns where more than 60 of 100 new fitters hired by the Water Services Corporation last month come from. WSC was part of, you guessed it, Dr Mizzi's portfolio. 

You can revisit that story by clicking here.

11.14am Keith Schembri is there too, accompanied by his wife and children. "I'm a bit tired, but we're only halfway there," he told Ivan Martin. 

Keith Schembri can be seen walking up the Palace stairs. Photo: Ivan MartinKeith Schembri can be seen walking up the Palace stairs. Photo: Ivan Martin

11.10am The VIPs are streaming in now. Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri is there, as is Attorney General Peter Grech. So too is former deputy PM Louis Grech and PL MP Carmelo Abela, as these photos by Jonathan Borg illustrate. 

Louis Grech is attending the ceremony. Photo: Jonathan BorgLouis Grech is attending the ceremony. Photo: Jonathan Borg
Carmelo Abela greets supporters. Photo: Jonathan BorgCarmelo Abela greets supporters. Photo: Jonathan Borg
A sea of noise outside the Palace. Video: Ivan MartinA sea of noise outside the Palace. Video: Ivan Martin

11.05am If that's too vanilla for you, here's a bit more flavour, courtesy of a brass band outside the palace walls. 

Video: Jonathan BrimmerVideo: Jonathan Brimmer

11.01am Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church handed the official electoral result to President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca this morning. 

Here's a DOI photo of the President taking a closer look at the numbers.

The President receives the electoral result as Joseph Church (left) looks on. Photo: DOI/Jason BorgThe President receives the electoral result as Joseph Church (left) looks on. Photo: DOI/Jason Borg

10.58am So how did PD do? Democratic Party candidates got 4,846 votes between them - 1.56% of the total. Only Marlene and Godfrey Farrugia made it into four figures, getting 1,574 and 1,837 first count votes (across two districts each) respectively.

In total, the PD's share made up 3.57% of the PN's total valid votes. 

10.47am Dutch Ambassador Joop Nijssen is clearly bemused by the Maltese proclivity for boisterous celebration

10.42am Someone at the presidential palace is paying attention. The tower fan I pointed out earlier has now been removed.

Where's the fan gone? Photo: Kurt SansoneWhere's the fan gone? Photo: Kurt Sansone

10.40am Sociologist Michael Briguglio reckons the PL outfoxed the PN in some key areas. 

“Whether they were right or wrong, Labour was making key decisions on various issues where the PN was slower and perhaps more cautious," he told Jacob Borg. 

Read the full article with Dr Briguglio's initial reactions

10.35m Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar makes a rare public appearance. Here he is, pictured alongside PL deputy leader Chris Cardona, as the two make their way to the swearing-in ceremony. 

With Louis Grech having stepped aside, will Dr Cardona be hoping to add 'Deputy Prime Minister' to his resume? 

Photo: Ivan MartinPhoto: Ivan Martin

10.32am The jostling for political bragging rights has started. Transport Malta CEO James Piscopo tweets that the PL has beaten PN by 40,000 votes if PD votes are removed from the PN total.

 

10.30am MPM's Desmond Falzon District 4 showing - 0 votes - means he joins Spiridione Sant as the second candidate in local electoral history to not get a single vote in a district. Mr Sant did likewise in 1987. 

Four other candidates failed to get past single digits this election: MPM's Simon Borg got two votes and independent candidate Joseph Aquilina managed four in District 1. PL's Mark Causon got nine votes in District 2, while MPM's Alex Pisani got seven votes in District 13. 

10.20am Camera rolling, flags lined up, table polished. The stage is set for the swearing-in ceremony at the Palace, Kurt Sansone tells us. Will that tower fan tucked by the window make it into the official photo? 

Photo: Kurt SansonePhoto: Kurt Sansone

10.16am What of the other minor parties? Moviment Patrijotti Maltin got 1,117 votes (0.36%), Alleanza Bidla managed 221 (0.07%) and independent candidates only got 91 votes (0.03%) between themselves.

10.14am Valletta's St George's Square is packed. A big screen has been set up so that the crowd can follow the swearing-in from outside. 

10.09am With the first count completed for all 13 districts, official totals are in. Labour has won the 2017 election by 35,280 votes, garnering 55.04% of votes to the PN's 43.68%. AD's 2,564 votes mean it got 0.83% of votes. 

10.05am Our reporters Ivan Martin and Kurt Sansone will be covering Joseph Muscat's swearing-in ceremony a bit later in the morning. That's scheduled to begin at 11.30am, though Ivan tells us it's still not clear whether Dr Muscat will speak with the press after being sworn in. 

10am District 9 numbers have started to trickle in. Counting for the district was held up when a few votes did not tally, but the problem seems to have been resolved. The district has gone decisevely the PN's way, and Kristy Debono becomes the first candidate elected from the district.

Robert Arrigo, Marthese Portelli and Ivan Bartolo (all PN) are doing well, while on the Labour side, Clifton Grima leads, with a trio made up of Michael Falzon, Edward Zammit Lewis and Manuel Mallia hot on his heels. 

9.52am Flushed with victory, Joseph Muscat tweets that he's "humbled" by the electoral result - and then goes on to brag about it. And really, you would too. 

9.50am District 6 is now on the 6th count. Robert Abela is now 400 votes shy of the quota and looks likely to be elected, with Roderick Galdes best placed to get the PL's third seat. 

On the PN side, Ryan Callus needs 800 more votes to be elected. The PN got 9,164 votes in the district – 2.4 times the quota - so in theory, they could get two seats.

9.43am If you're heading out to celebrate today, keep it civil. 

Our online editor Herman Grech saw cars speeding through Portes des Bombes this morning, while a reader in St Julian's sent us the above photo of two knuckleheads setting off flares on the promenade. 

9.41am Forgot to mention earlier - if you've got any questions, comments, photos or videos you'd like to share, get in touch with us. You can email [email protected] or tweet me directly on @bertu123

9.35am Back to the counting hall: It's looking like Claudio Grech and Paula Mifsud Bonnici (both PN) are neck-and-neck in District 1, with 2,821 and 2,338 votes respectively.

With Mario de Marco already elected and the PL having secured two seats, only one of them really stands of chance of securing a seat in parliament. It's all down to who inherits the other's votes - save for the highly unlikely possibility of them inheriting votes from a PL candidate.    

9.32am Going by data from the past five elections, incumbent MPs stand a 75% chance of being reelected. Which familiar names will end up on the outside looking in this time round?

9.26am Joseph Muscat's 14,674 first count votes in District 2 means he made 361% of the district quota - the third most dominant candidate performance in Maltese electoral history, nudging Eddie Fenech Adami's 8th district showing during the 1987 general election (336% of the quota) into fourth place. 

Dr Muscat managed to capture an even higher percentage of district 2 votes in 2013, getting 365% of the quota. Dom Mintoff's 367% performance in district 2 during the 1981 general election remains top of the all-time table. 

9.16am How are the more controversial candidates faring? The PN's Salvu Mallia has yet to reach the 100-vote mark even when adding both his district totals together. Glenn Bedingfield is doing somewhat better, with an average of first count 200 votes in both districts. He'll be hoping to capture a chunk of Joseph Muscat's votes in subsequent counts. 

Josie Muscat, meanwhile, racked up precisely 666 first count votes in the second district. And no, that is not a typo. 

9.14am Eager to know which candidates have been elected in your district? Check out our district-by-district guide.

If you're more interested in seeing how the votes fell in each respective district, have a read of this. 

9.12am  In the 13th district, Anton Refalo’s (PL) excess votes have been spread fairly evenly across almost all the other candidates, with Justyne Caruana in pole position. On the Nationalist side, Marthese Portelli looks as thought she has a chance of getting a seat.

9.10am Counters for District 6 must be keen to be named the Electoral Commission's best workers - vote counting there has already reached the fifth count. 

The PL's Silvio Schembri has already been elected. 

Robert Abela and Roderick Galdes are the front runners for the Labour Party, while for the Nationalists, Ryan Callus is the closest, with 3,070 votes, to the 3,847 quota.

9.06am The second count has now been completed on District 1.  The PN's Claudio Grech and Paula Mifsud Bonnici have inherited most of Mario de Marco’s excess votes, but with 2,821 and 2,338 votes, they're still some way from the 4,033 quota.

9am It's a sunny start to the week, for Labour Party supporters at least. Plenty of PL flags and red t-shirts in Valletta this morning. 

Photo: Jonathan BorgPhoto: Jonathan Borg
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