Labour on course to clinch four EP seats: MaltaToday survey projections

Projections based on the latest MaltaToday survey show the PN has an uphill struggle to cling on to the third seat it won at the death of time in the 2014 European Parliament election. MaltaToday reports

The Labour Party is set to win four seats in the European Parliament election next May, according to projections based on the latest MaltaToday survey.

The Nationalist Party will clinch two seats as it loses ground over the result obtained five years ago.

Malta has six seats in the European Parliament and in 2014 the PN managed to clinch its third seat by a few hundred votes at the end of the vote counting process.

An exercise carried out by MaltaToday, using figures from the March survey released a fortnight ago, shows that the PL starts as a strong favourite at the first count to capture four seats.

The exercise is based on declared voting intention and does not attribute party preference to those who said they were unsure who to vote for in the upcoming May election.

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

PL: Four quotas to start with

According to the projection, the Labour Party could be looking at a voting share of 59%, four points more than what it achieved in the 2017 general election.

The numbers suggest that the PL could amass four quotas and a bit more at the first count. This means that the party will not only have four seats under its belt at first count but a number of votes that it could afford to lose throughout the transfer process.

Votes are lost when they become non-transferable at some stage of the counting process. By contrast, in the 2014 election the PL started the race with a solid three quotas and fell short of a fourth.

MEP Miriam Dalli
MEP Miriam Dalli

PN: An elusive third quota

The PN is projected to secure two quotas at first count but fall short of a third in the May election.

This is nothing new for the Opposition party because in 2014 it obtained a similar result at first count but managed to secure the third seat at the death.

However, the projections point towards a major difference between the forthcoming election and that of five years ago.

The PN’s serving MEPs, (from left) Francis Zammit Dimech, Roberta Metsola and David Casa, are all up for re-election
The PN’s serving MEPs, (from left) Francis Zammit Dimech, Roberta Metsola and David Casa, are all up for re-election

Current polls are giving the PL four seats at first count, which means the PN’s attempt to clinch a third seat this time around not only depends on the number of votes the party manages to retain at each count and possibly gain, but also on the PL losing votes.

The PN’s feat this time may also be hampered by internal friction that could see a section of its traditional voters – being referred to in political quarters as the Daphne crowd – who may opt to stay away from the hustings or give their preference to one or two PN candidates and stop at that.

The latter option could spell the death knell for the PN’s aspirations to secure a third seat in the European Parliament.

Third-party transfers

One other factor that has so far not emerged from the polls is the vote share that third-parties will obtain.

In 2014, third parties and independents secured more than 16,000 first count votes – 6.6% of the electorate. This included a good performance by far-right candidate Norman Lowell.

None of the third-party candidates and independents got elected or came close to getting elected.

Polling data so far has shown there is little appetite for third parties and independents.

The Democratic Party will, for the first time, contest on its own steam but so far, polls suggest the PD has failed to make any significant inroads among the electorate.

Lowell only announced his candidature last week and the impact of this still has to be determined. Another aspect to look out for is Cassola’s run as an independent candidate after he fell out with AD.

If the survey results are eventually reflected in the EP election, the PN will be hoping that any votes given to third parties will be transferred to its candidates to enable it to get closer to the third seat.

However, historical data does not favour the PN.

In the 2014 MEP election, the PN only gained 14% of Norman Lowell’s votes when the Imperium Europa candidate dropped out of the race on count 17. This was akin to the share of votes Alternattiva Demokratika candidate Arnold Cassola inherited from Lowell.

PL candidates inherited a quarter while 47% of Lowell’s votes were non-transferable.

A similar scenario developed when Cassola dropped out of the race at count 21. PN candidates inherited 31% of Cassola’s votes, PL candidates inherited 22%, while 47% were non-transferable.

The projection

Step 1: Eligible voters

There were 351,483 Maltese people aged 16 and over registered as voters in the last electoral register published in October. Given that the May election is for the European Parliament, EU citizens in Malta can also vote. The number of EU citizens registered to vote is 18,160.

This means that for the purpose of this calculation the number of eligible voters is assumed to be 369,643.

A new electoral register is expected in April, which means the number of registered voters may be slightly higher.

Step 2: Basis on which EP vote is projected

For the purpose of this exercise, the EP election result is being modelled on the findings of the March MaltaToday survey.

The raw MT survey results produced the following relevant numbers:

  • No vote: 13.2%; Don’t know: 13.9%; No answer: 1.9%;
  • PL: 42.3%; PN: 27.3%; Others: 1.5%
  • If the people who did not declare a voting intention are removed from the equation, the projected results for the political parties would be:
  • PL: 59.5%; PN: 38.4%; Others: 2.1%

Step 3: Key assumptions

Those who said they will not vote, are unsure and did not answer – a total of 29% – will stay at home on 25 May. This gives a turnout of 71%, which compares favourably with the turnout of 75% in the last EP election of 2014.

It is assumed that from those who turn out to vote, 98% will cast a valid vote. This percentage is based on the last EP election in 2014.
These figures will give a national quota of 36,744 votes, which is the number a candidate has to reach to get elected.

The quota is calculated by dividing the number of valid votes cast by seven (one more than the number of seats that have to be elected), plus one.

  • Eligible voters: 369,643
  • Turnout at 71%: 262,447
  • Valid votes cast 98%: 257,198
  • Quota of votes to get elected: 36,744

Step 4: Projected seats in May 2019

The projected results obtained by the political parties in the MT survey are used to calculate the projected number of votes they could be expected to receive in the election. This is worked as a percentage of valid votes cast.

The votes projected for each party are divided by the quota to determine how many quotas the party is expected to have totted up at the first count. This is indicative of the number of seats that are likely to go the party’s way.

The results of the 2014 MEP election show how the number of projected seats the parties started with at the first count was a good reflection of how they eventually ended up. The quota in 2014 was 35,979.

MEP Elections 2019

Party Vote share Votes Quotas Projected seats
PL 59.5% 153,033 4.16 4
PN 38.4% 98,764 2.69 2
Other 2.1% 5,401 0.15 0

MEP Elections 2014

Party Vote share Votes Quotas Actual seats
PL 53.4% 134,462 3.74 3
PN 40% 100,785 2.80 3
Other 6.6% 16,604 0.46 0