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[LIVE] Spring hunting to stay as Gozo hands hunters 2,220 majority

Spring Hunting Out spokespersons say that they respect outcome of referendum but that the numbers should send a strong message to politicians that a large portion of the Maltese electorate does not support spring hunting.

12 April 2015, 7:26am
Last updated on 12 April 2015, 4:05pm
After removing himself from the campaign forefront, Lino Farrugia reaps the fruits of the campaign victory at the Naxxar counting hall
After removing himself from the campaign forefront, Lino Farrugia reaps the fruits of the campaign victory at the Naxxar counting hall
Counting staff lift their votes up high so that monitors inspect the process from behind the perspex wall.
Counting staff lift their votes up high so that monitors inspect the process from behind the perspex wall.
An altercation on the eighth district table was quelled by police officers.
An altercation on the eighth district table was quelled by police officers.
Inside the counting hall
Inside the counting hall
Inside the counting hall
Inside the counting hall
15:55: Results of all districts, except for District 13 (Gozo) were counting is still ongoing.
15:17: A quick look at the figures shows that traditional Labour strongholds – districts 2, 3, 4 and 6 – posted a Yes majority vote. The difference in district 6, which includes Siggiewi, Luqa and Qormi, between the Yes and the No was of 3,684 votes in favour of the Yes.

District 10, where the NO vote registered an astounding 12,224 compared with the Yes’s 5,242, recorded the biggest difference so far (7,200 votes).

15:17: A quick look at the figures shows that traditional Labour strongholds – districts 2, 3, 4 and 6 – posted a Yes majority vote. The difference in district 6, which includes Siggiewi, Luqa and Qormi, between the Yes and the No was of 3,684 votes in favour of the Yes.

District 10, where the NO vote registered an astounding 12,224 compared with the Yes’s 5,242, recorded the biggest difference so far (7,200 votes).

15:01: District 6: 20,610 valid votes: YES gets 12,147 votes • NO gets 8,463 votes

14:57: Results out so far:

District 1: 16,22 valid votes : YES gets 7,535 votes • NO gets 8,687 votes

District 2: 16,971 valid votes: YES gets 16,971 votes • NO gets 6,460 votes

District 3: 17,630 valid votes: YES gets 9,938 votes • NO gets 7,692 votes

District 4: 18,004 valid votes: YES gets 9,876 votes • NO gets 8,128

District 10: 17,466 valid votes: YES gets 5,242 • NO gets 12,224

14:45: Meanwhile, a polling agent was injured after she fell off a ladder, landing on her leg. Paramedics have been called in.
14:17: As hunters continue to celebrate the victory of the Yes camp, FKNK president Joe Perici Calascione, CEO Lino Farrugia and Iva Bhala Maltin u Ewropej Kathleen Grima delivered an impromptu press conference in Qormi, atop a truck.

All three urged the hunters to be responsible and “to show that you are not the people the NO camp tried to depict you as”

They thanked the electorate for trusting them, allowing the reopening of the spring hunting season next Tuesday.

“This was a historic victory showing that there is no hatred between Maltese and Gozitans. Have fun hunting but remember that the first mistake and the first illegality will have to be carried by all,” Perici Calascione said.

Echoing Joseph Muscat’s words, Perici Calascione said hunters will have to be “law enforcers” themselves, reporting illegalities to the police.

13:56: RESULTS expected at around 3pm.
13:43: During a press conference convened at Castille, Joseph Muscat confirmed the spring hunting season will open on Tuesday. He warned that no illegalities will be tolerated and that hunters should ‘protect this one last chance afforded to them’.

Full report of the press conference can be found here

13:20: Axel Hirschfeld of the Campaign Against Bird Slaughter says the conservationists will be in Malta from 17 April to 3 May with 24 international volunteers to monitor the spring hunting season with video cameras, spotting scopes and night vision equipment.

“Referendum lost. But Maltese PM says that this years spring hunting season will be ‘last chance’ for hunters if killing of protected birds continues. CABS will be on Malta to keep an eye on the birds and their roosts as well as to report illegalities to the police… Local birdwatchers and environmentalists are invited to help and reinforce our teams. If you can afford a couple of days to help the birds please contact us: [email protected]
13:15: In a statement, the FKNK said that the referendum’s result has lifted a great burden off their shoulders. They called on celebrators to abide by the law and not antagonise people who had voted No. A press conference has been scheduled for tomorrow.
11:47: Muscat: “I cannot guarantee what a criminal would have done had the spring hunting season been banned… I cannot give any guarantees [on the SMS declarations on quotas]. The onus is now on hunters. There must be a clear understanding that somebody who breaches the law is effectively taking something away from someone else.”
11:44: Muscat: "I don't think what I said in a few radio messages this campaign can be considered as campaigning on my part."
11:43: Muscat says that had he campaigned, the result would have been different - read: higher for the hunting fraternity.
11:42: Joseph Muscat says "it does not appear to [him]" that the Labour Party machine was working to assist the hunting campaign.
11:37: Muscat: “I appeal to both sides of this divide to come together at a table, to find room for dialogue, to accept that the Maltese believe in a regulated spring hunting season, and that not everybody believes in abolition.”
11:34: Muscat: “I think there is a clear message to the government that people want spring hunting to continue, in a regulated manner; and another clear message that they want the environmental agenda to be placed higher up. I want to see dialogue improve, to see an improvement in environmental governance. This is a message that civil society is taking an autonomous form separate from political parties.”
11:33: Muscat: “Enforcement has improved… but penalties will increase if necessary. The victory of the Yes vote carries with it a certain responsibility. Hunters have been given a last chance to control their hunters, to report those hunters that breach the law.”
11:31: Muscat: There will be no playing around with the law. Who breaches the law will find no type of refuge.
11:29: Muscat: I’m ready to close the season if there is a flagrant breach of the law. If hunters are not ready to take the law seriously…
11:28: From Castille, the PM says that a minority of criminals almost cost the hunting community the spring season.
11:28: Spring hunting will start on Tuesday, says Joseph Muscat.
11:18: Statement by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil

11:09: In a statement, the Nationalist Party said voters had expressed their will to retain the derogation against the EU banon spring hunting. “We make it clear that we are respecting the people’s decision, without any reservations. Now it is everybody’s duty, particularly the government’s, to see that this will is respected. The PN augurs that the maturity shown by the two sides during the campaign continues to be shown.
10:40: James Debono, whose polls correctly predicted so many electoral outcomes, explains his reasoning why this time MaltaToday's polls did not get this referendum prediction right. CLICK HERE
10:30: SHout spokespersons Saviour Balzan, Moira Delia and Mark Sultana address journalists at the counting hall: 'We accept referendum result'
10:27: Inside the counting hall, Lino Farrugia and Joe Perici Calascione confirm YES win, appeal for "calm" as counting hall breaks into cheers.
10:22: Inside the counting hall, hunters and supporters of the hunting lobby celebrate.
10:21: “This is a clear environmental message. I will not ignore it. Today is not a day for celebrations. I gave clear instructions to the police, and the army – illegalities will not be tolerated.”
10:20: Muscat: "The public has given a last chance to genuine hunters to practice their tradition. But hunters have to understand that the story has changed for them, totally. Practically half the people do not want spring hunting to continue. So they have to reckon with this reality. They have to understand that they must respect the law in the spring hunting season that will open on Tuesday. They have to get it right.”
10:18: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is saying the referendum could have been carried with just 50.8% for the Yes vote.
10:12: Indications that the difference between Yes and No could be of about 4,000 votes.
10:11: Car-cading has started in Malta...
10:10: Seen in the counting hall near Lino Farrugia is former Labour candidate Bertu Pace, of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit.
10:09: Fireworks peppering the sky in Zurrieq in celebration... and some jubilant shots heard out in Qrendi, a witness tells us.
10:01: SHout spokesperson Saviour Balzan, also the managing editor of MaltaToday, has thanked the number of people who put their face to the anti-spring hunting campaign.

“We are 14 organisations without a political structure, we don’t have two party leaders who said they vote yes; we only depended on the people. We did what we could. We didn’t do it for our personal ends. Today in 2015, we know that at least 49% of the electorate does not want spring hunting.”

Mark Sultana said that a large number of people have sent the message that politicians have to pay attention to people’s aspirations for a better environment.
10:01: SHout spokespersons are now in the counting hall.
09:42: More scenes from inside the counting hall

09:41: PBS head of news says that the first samples are showing a Yes victory.
09:38: Lino Farrugia has refused to commit on a prediction: he says it is close.
09:37: FKNK Lino Farrugia is also in the counting hall, an indication that the result looks positive for the Yes vote.
09:31: FKNK president Joe Perici Calascione has entered the counting hall, saying he was happy with the positive turnout for the hunting vote.
09:25: Again, still too early to come down to conclusions: but there's an even distribution of Yes and No votes on the tables... it confirms earlier speculation that this result will be a close one.
09:18: Some shouting and swearing going on at the eighth district table. Police have intervened.
09:15: It's not an exact science: we have seen some balance in the first three districts, a yes lead in the fourth district, and some ties in the sixth and tenth district.
09:13: What's the political gossip inside the counting hall? The Labour side is inclined to think that the hunting vote will prevail by a slight majority, having cut down the ‘no’ side’s sizeable lead in the last week of campaigning by targeting voters who had not made their mind up yet.

By applying MaltaToday’s last survey predictions to individual districts, according to the proportion of votes cast, the no side had a majority of some 13,000 votes in the last survey. But you have to factor in the sizeable ‘don’t knows’ we had in the surveys.
09:05: As usual, the atmosphere is tense in the counting hall as monitors start logging the number of yes and no votes as they catch their eye.
09:00: Miriam Dalli is inside the counting hall as counters set to start sorting of votes.

08:24: Here’s the number of votes cast yesterday according to official turnouts. This does indicate valid votes, which are yet to be decided during the sorting process.

07:50: Is this turnout an indication of a ‘yes’ victory: ultimately it will depend on the apportionment of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes and the scale of their majority on individual districts.

It is expected that results from the PN-leaning eighth to the twelfth districts could report strong No majorities, which in some cases may border on an anti-hunting plebiscite, where turnout fell by 1 percentage point overall.

But in the PL-leaning but less politically homogeneous south eastern and western Malta and Gozo, won by Labour for the first time in 2013, it could be a strong lead for the Yes camp.

The Labour-leaning first four districts where the No presently enjoys a small two-point lead but where 13% are saying that they will not be voting in the referendum and 19% are still undecided on what to do, is where turnout suffered: decreases of -3, -2, -4, and 1 point increase respectively in first, second, third and fourth district turnouts over the 2011 referendum.

The first four districts include three where Labour enjoys majorities of over 66% and the more divided first districts where Labour enjoys a 54% majority.

Only two-thirds of voters in the first four districts had made up their mind on how to vote in the last MaltaToday survey, compared to 79% in the fifth, sixth and seventh districts, 78% in Gozo and 73% in the eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth districts.

Interestingly, the pro-hunting districts, namely Gozo and the fifth, sixth and seventh districts, reported the lowest percentage of voters who intend not voting. And it was here that turnout was high: respectively 81%, 81% and 76% in districts 5-8, and 81% in the Gozo district.

Then there are permutations in each individual locality.

Indications from MaltaToday surveys show the Yes leading by five points in Qormi and Siggiewi, and by 25 points in Zebbug and Dingli, strong hunting districts.

On the other hand, the No camp leads by 15-20 points in the more urbanised Hamrun, and Mosta, Naxxar and Birkirkara report a not so narrow No lead of between five and ten points.

But the more affluent Attard and Swieqi report the No camp leading by more than 40 points. In these localities around two thirds are saying that they will be voting no. Other localities reporting strong No majorities of over 30 points are St Julian’s and St Paul’s Bay.
07:36: Here are the official referendum turnouts from the Electoral Commission

07:32: Malta and Gozo yesterday came out to vote for a historic referendum to decide on whether to abrogate the government’s derogation from the EU’s spring hunting ban, in a battle between conservationists and ‘traditionalists’ that will be decided today.

The official voter turnout was 75%, a higher turnout than in the 2011 divorce referendum of 72%, with marked increases in ‘hunter districts’ like the thirteenth Gozo district, and the Labour strongholds of the fifth, sixth, and seventh districts.

Urban heartlands and harbour districts in the first, second and third districts registered reductions of three, two, and four percentage points over 2011. The eighth and tenth districts registered a drop of one percentage point both, while turnout was unchanged over 2011 in the ninth and twelfth district.

Also yesterday, voting took place in 34 local councils, most of them Labour-led councils, which served as a gauge of the national interest in the spring hunting referendum.

Districts like the ‘blue’ tenth, which includes Sliema, saw a turnout of 70%, a drop of one point over 2011, suggesting that voters with no council to vote for still made the effort to vote in the referendum.

President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola and SHout spokeswoman Moira Delia cast their vote on Saturday morning. No media invitation was issued to cover any of the Yes spokespersons as they cast their votes.

07:27: Good morning from Naxxar. We're going to keep you updated with the counting process, which is set to start at 9am.

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