One election, many surprises

The European elections have seen Labour score a remarkable victory, however it wasn’t the only surprise

The process of distributing preferences has at times brought the process to complete standstillPhoto:Ray Attard)
The process of distributing preferences has at times brought the process to complete standstillPhoto:Ray Attard)

Labour’s mammoth victory has taken everybody by surprise, probably even the Prime Minister himself, however the staggering victory was not the only surprise in the European elections.

To put Labour’s victory into proportion, if its 13.4 percentage point majority repeats itself in a general election it would translate itself into a 40,000 vote majority.

Moreover, Labour’s victory is even more astonishing when compared to the 2013 general election. Labour maintained its absolute majority despite having a segment of its core vote not showing up at the polling stations. This could possibly indicate that Labour has wowed new voters, despite being in power and the barrage of criticism from the opposition benches during its time in office.

The PN’s dismal result was equally surprising, with the opposition’s 40% share of the vote defying all polls and predictions. Not only did the opposition fail to pounce on the mid-term blues which previous PN governments fell victim to in the past, but it has also failed to attract back switchers, especially in traditionally PN fortresses such as Gozo.

Calls for PN leader Simon Busuttil’s head might not be deafening, however the bottom line is that the electorate has given a yellow card to the opposition, which under Busuttil’s stewardship remains rudderless and uninspiring.

Although Busuttil was hesitant on turning the election into a direct contest with Joseph Muscat, the evident difference rests in the Labour leader’s ability to be in synch with contemporary society’s aspirations.

The rise of the right wing

Norman Lowell’s success at the polls might go beyond his extreme, neo-fascist ideology, however the fact that his party garnered 2.7% of the vote, does not augur well for third party politics in Malta. The two big parties could now well have a plausible excuse for their perpetual resistance to reform the electoral law.

Imperium Europa, who fared better in Labour strongholds such as the third and fifth districts, could also play a pivotal role in the allocation of the sixth seat if a substantial number of second, third, fourth preferences are inherited by Labour.

Yesterday, Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola dubbed the far-rightists’ electoral performance as “preoccupying” and “bad” for all the country.

However, Cassola and the Greens must seriously rethink their approach. Despite bettering the 2009 European election result, AD’s moderate strategy has held the party back from attracting a significan number of new voters, especially among the persosns who chose to stay home on election day.  

The Gozo factor

25-year-old Clint Camilleri’s first foray into national politics has seen the Gozitan architect spring a surprise by coming in fourth among the Labour candidates and apart from having a good chance of getting elected, the historic majority Labour won in Gozo could be a prelude to a long lasting Labour dominance in Gozo.

The Gozo result could also sway the allocation of the sixth seat if Camilleri inherits a significant share of second preferences from the PN’s own Gozitan candidate Kevin Cutajar.

With only Alfred Sant elected after seven counts, the race for the remaining seats is hotting up. With Roberta Metsola and David Casa set to be elected, the final three seats will most probably be elected without reaching the quota set at 35,979.

Currently, the PN has a slightly higher probability to acquire its elusive third seat; with the gap between the two big parties standing at 0.08, or around 3,000.

However, with no PN candidate eliminated yet, the PN could see its advantage reduced once its votes are transferred.

With Miriam Dalli close to securing Labour’s second seat, the race for Labour’s third and possibly fourth is between Marlene Mizzi, Joseph Cuschieri and Clint Camilleri.

On the PN front, the race for its possible third seat is between Ray Bugeja who is at an advantage due to his position at the top of the PN candidate list and Therese Commodini Cachia, Francis Zammit Dimech and Norman Vella.

Whatever happens, the recurring feeling at the Naxxar counting hall is that the counting process is too slow and laborious with the whole process coming to a stand still for hours over technical disputes or the change of shift.