Labour cruises to second major landslide with 55% of popular vote

Malta chooses to stay the course and return Labour in power with a massive 38,000 vote majority, the party's second consecutive landslide win

Joseph Muscat addressing supporters outside Labour HQ
Joseph Muscat addressing supporters outside Labour HQ

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat yesterday declared victory in Malta’s snap election after preliminary results showed Labour cruising to a second, consecutive landslide of a majority of 38,000 votes – an unprecedented feat in Maltese politics.

Labour took 55% of the popular vote, leaving the Opposition Nationalist Party picking up the pieces of a major defeat that is expected to see leader Simon Busuttil announce his resignation today Monday.

“It is clear that the people have chosen to stay the course,” Muscat said, who called the snap election on 1 May amid allegations of corruption made against his wife.

The allegations were subjected to an inquiry by a magistrate, called by Muscat, who has insisted he would resign if anything implicates him. He has denied the allegations, and repeatedly challenged Busuttil to resign if the allegations he himself had advanced in a national protest, were untrue.

The short, four-week campaign was replete with leaks of confidential Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports that were filed by its former director to the Commissioner of Police, requesting investigations into Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and former energy minister Konrad Mizzi, who were implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. Muscat was criticised for not sacking them.

Despite the allegations which dogged the administration, Muscat presided over record job creation and economic growth, and an advance in civil liberties which he now plans to bolster by introducing gay marriage and reforms on IVF treatment.

Various polls failed to capture the scale of majority Labour would win by, even though voting intentions and trust ratings always indicated a Labour win.

Simon Busuttil made a telephone call to Muscat to concede defeat in Saturday’s election. “As always, we respect the decision of the electorate,” Busuttil said in a tweet later.

After the announcement of the results, Labour supporters took to the streets in celebration, gathering near party clubs and waving flags. Outside the Labour headquarters, a rally took place, which Muscat addressed.

“The people have confirmed their trust in this movement, despite it being the target of one of the most negative campaigns in our country’s history,” he said. “Those who thought that the Maltese people would choose negativity don’t truly know the Maltese people, because the Maltese people choose positivity, optimism, energy, goodwill, unity and equality.”

The turnout was 92% of the more than 340,000 eligible voters, lower than it was in 2013.

Muscat is sworn in today Monday at 11am, after which he will begin forming his new government that will have a five-year mandate.

During the election campaign, Muscat promised continuity and greater wealth for a country that has the lowest unemployment rate ever at 4.1 percent - the third lowest in Europe - and in 2016 registered a budget surplus for the first time in three decades.

Shortly after polls closed, Malta’s President, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, called for a process of reconciliation to begin after what she called a campaign full of “aggressive and abusive language” both by politicians and the public.

“I want to see people returning to open dialogue, which is the basis of a healthy democracy,” she said.