Resizing Norman Lowell: Far right candidate gets 3% but leads small parties

We try to understand the numbers behind Norman Lowell’s emergence as Malta’s strongest third party in these elections with more than 8,000 votes

Far-right extremist Norman Lowell
Far-right extremist Norman Lowell

Overall results from the European election indicate that third parties have only marginally increased their vote share from 6% in 2014 to 8% now but the balance has shifted to the far right.

While in 2014 the third-party vote was split between Alternattiva Demokratika and Norman Lowell, in this election the Imperium Europa candidate emerged as the most popular third party candidate.

Official results released by the Electoral Commission on Monday morning show that initial projections giving Lowell 15,000 votes were incorrect. Lowell clocked off his first count tally at 3.2%, a marginal increase of half a percentage point over his result five years ago.

By European standards this is a poor result but one that cannot be ignored. Analysing the numbers shows that Lowell retained the same share of the third-party vote as in 2014.

If one adds the anti-immigrant Moviment Patrijotti Maltin to the equation the percentage of far-right voters stood at 3.5%.

If one were to include the ultra-conservative Alleanza Bidla, the percentage would rise to 4% which amounts to 51% of all votes given to third parties and independent candidates.

Surely the relative success of the far right sends a clear message that a part of Maltese society is willing to support Lowell despite his extremist views on eugenics and his description of Auchwitz as ‘Disneyland’.

Lowell also managed to out-perform the less brutal but fiercely anti-immigrant Moviment Patrijotti Maltin that only received 771 votes. This confirms past trends showing Lowell beating any challenge from more moderate anti-immigrant outfits.

READ ALSO: Labour’s majority has ‘shrunk’ to 42,000… and Lowell wins the ‘third party’ battle

Neither have Lowell’s voters recoiled at the country’s first racially motivated murder which saw political leaders unite in denouncing racism.

It is perfectly possible that not all of Lowell’s voters share all his unsavoury views and a vote for Lowell may also be seen by some voters as a raspberry to the political duopoly.

The far right may be actually managing to communicate with those marginalised by rising social inequalities, who find it easier to vent anger against those who are more vulnerable than them (immigrants) rather than the more powerful (big business).

Overall, this may be a reflection of the ambiguity on this issue shown by both government and Opposition in confronting this issue in the past decade, periodically exploiting anti immigrant sentiments or stereotyping foreigners.  

The success of the far right may well serve as a wake-up call for the need of more and not less integration and for policies which address social fractures in local communities.

Muscat’s strong reaction and commitment towards integration in the wake of the racially motivated murder of Lassane Cisse Souleymane suggests a willingness to confront the problem. 

In the absence of such a concerted effort and in the context of a very weak Nationalist opposition, the growth of the far right may become a permanent fixture in Maltese politics.

If this happens, this is bound to further condition the discourse of the established parties. So far, support for the far right has been limited to MEP elections.

In fact, while support for Lowell in the MEP elections has grown from 0.7% in 2004, to 1.5% in 2009, to 2.7% in 2014 and more than 3% now, in general elections these voters have always returned to the fold of the major parties.

It has to be seen whether this will continue to be the case in the future or whether this success will give traction to the far right.

Lowell’s far right vote in MEP elections

MEP election Votes received  Lowell votes as % of total Lowell votes as % of third party votes 
2004 1,603 0.7 6.3
2009 3,637 1.5 31.1
2014 6,761 2.7 40.7
2019 8,335 3.2 40.9

Right wing/Conservative vote in 2019 MEP election

Party % of total votes
Imperium Europa 3.2
Alleanza Bidla 0.5
Moviment Patrijotti Maltin 0.3
Total 4

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