Angry votes? 64% of Norman Lowell’s votes were non-transferable

Analysing the journey of third-party candidates’ votes after their elimination, and where the votes of the far-right ended

A MaltaToday analysis of vote transfers from third-party candidates following their elimination in last week’s European election race shows far-right voters may be angrier at the political establishment and less disposed to continue their preferences on the major parties.

And they are also slightly more likely to continue their vote on Labour candidates, when voters for other minor parties are more likely to continue their vote on PN candidates.

Lowell votes non-transferable

6,151 of Norman Lowell’s final 9,693 votes (63.5%) were non-transferable, suggesting that by the penultimate count, when Lowell was eliminated, there were no surviving third-party candidates to transfer the votes to. But the rest of his votes were transferred to Labour (20%) and the PN (17%). The 1,625 Lowell votes transferred to the PN were nearly evenly split between the three remaining PN candidates namely Casa (587), Peter Agius (552) and Frank Psaila (486). 900 of the 1,917 votes transferred to Labour went Alex Agius Saliba, who was the first name on the list.

Similar patterns could be observed among the smaller cohort of Patriots voters whose candidates were eliminated at an earlier stage. The majority of were either non-transferable or inherited by Lowell. Only 15% of their votes were inherited by PL and PN candidates in nearly equal portions.

Despite ideological differences third-party voters tend to transfer their votes to other third-party candidates, including the far right.

By the time he was eliminated, Lowell managed to increase his share by 1,455 votes over and above a first count vote of 8,238 votes. Of these, 225 were transferred from PL candidates and 195 from PN candidates. The rest were transferred from other third-party voters, including 262 PD voters and 239 AD voters. Lowell also inherited 212 votes from the two candidates standing from fellow far-rightists in the MPM.

Cami Appelgren gets the PN votes

By the time she was eliminated, 51% of PD candidate Cami Appelgren’s votes were non-transferable. Of the rest, only 11% were transferred to PL candidates while 35% were transferred to PN candidates. David Casa inherited 885 of the 1,816 votes inherited by the PN from the PD’s candidate. This suggests that the PD candidate attracted some support from disgruntled Nationalists who gave their first preference to PD and then continued on Casa and Roberta Metsola, who was already elected when Appelgren was eliminated and could not inherit any of these votes.

Vote transfers to Casa may well be seen as an indication of the level of support enjoyed by third parties among voters who identify with civil society groups campaigning on rule of law issues like Occupy Justice and Repubblika. Appelgren emerges as the top choice among this category, as Casa ended up inheriting 17% of her voters. But this statistic has to be qualified by the fact that by the time of Appelgren’s elimination, several other PN candidates like Michael Briguglio, who performed well with other third-party candidates, had already been eliminated. Peter Agius inherited a tenth of Appelgren's votes.

Moreover, the results suggest that Appelgren’s catchment was wider than this restricted cohort. In fact, a tenth of her voters continued voting on PL candidates. She also attracted voters of a liberal orientation. Only 3% of her voters continued on Lowell, who was the last surviving third party candidate at that time.

Along her journey Appelgren also managed to attract most AD and Cassola voters. When AD’s Mina Tolu was eliminated 219 of their votes preferred continuing on Appelgren, than on Carmel Cacopardo. When Cacopardo was eliminated the PD candidate received another 214 votes. She also inherited a substantial 459 votes from independent candidate Arnold Cassola upon his elimination.  

Moreover, 168 of the 238 votes Appelgren inherited from the PN hailed from Michael Briguglio, a former leader of the Greens. She also inherited 101 votes from PL candidates.

But Appelgren inherited only 31% of party leader Godfrey Farrugia’s inheritance. PN candidates inherited a greater portion of the PD’s vote than Appelgren.

No green shoots

Voters for Arnold Cassola, who emerged as the most successful independent MEP candidate contesting these elections, also followed similar patterns. Upon his elimination, while nearly half his votes were not transferable, 38% of his votes went to PN candidates and only 8% were inherited by Labour candidates. But in Cassola’s case the main beneficiary in the PN was not David Casa, who inherited 279 votes from the independent candidate, but Michael Briguglio, who inherited 291 votes.

In a clear sign of solidarity between AD and PD voters, 47% of Carmel Cacopardo’s votes, who was the last AD candidate standing, were transferred to the PD candidates. But in defiance of any ideological trends, Lowell inherited more votes from Cacopardo than Cassola. While the far-right leader inherited 225 votes, the former AD leader only inherited 194 votes from his predecessor.

Voters for Mina Tolu were the least likely to transfer their votes to the far right. Less than 2% of Tolu’s voters transferred their vote to Lowell. But interestingly 16 voters of the Christian conservative Alleanza Bidla party continued voting on the LGBTIQ activist. AB voters were more likely to continue their vote on AD than on the PD or Lowell. Like PD voters, they were also more like to continue voting on the PN than on the PL.

While Cacopardo’s voters were more likely to continue on the PN than on the PL, Tolu’s votes were inherited in equal portions. Of the 75 votes inherited by the PL, more than half were inherited by Gozitan candidate Josianne Cutajar. Michael Briguglio and Peter Agius were the most popular candidates among Tolu voters, who continued on PN candidates. On the other hand, Cacopardo voters who continued on the PN marginally preferred Casa. In an indication that Tolu attracted a different vote segment than Cacopardo, less than half her votes were transferred to the party leader.

Also significant was the increase in invalid votes, which this time round have shot up to 3.6% – nearly double the amount of invalidated votes in the first MEP elections in 2004. Coupled with the drop in turnout this may also be an indication of growing disillusionment which is not being captured by both liberal or green candidates and the far right.