Updated | Labour supermajority crashes as margin dwindles to 8,400 votes

Labour supermajority has been more than halved as gap between PL and PN shrinks to 8,544 votes

Labour party agents at the Naxxar counting hall celebrate victory at the European elections
Labour party agents at the Naxxar counting hall celebrate victory at the European elections

The Labour Party has won the European elections, but its invincible supermajority has been drastically slashed in what will surely be the major talking point of the 2024 elections.

Earlier projections of a 20,000 vote difference started shrinking the more votes got scanned and verified, until the number sank to 8,454 votes.

On TVM, Prime Minister Robert Abela first described Labour’s victory as “solid” but party agents exercised caution in declaring majority numbers.

The PN’s television station NET first claimed the majority would fall to below 20,000, and PN secretary-general Michael Piccinino said the majority would fall to 15,000, calling it the party’s “best electoral result ever”.

That number kept falling throughout the day as more votes were scanned and verified.

With a combination of dampened turnout figures and lower voter interest, the sharp cut in the Labour supermajority, a constant for the party since its election in 2013, will be interpreted as a crack in Labour’s invincibility.

In 2014, Labour won by over 33,677 votes in a nail-biter which saw Therese Comodini Cachia snatch the PN’s third seat by chance. In 2019, the PL won a fourth seat on the back of a supermajority of 42,656.

READ MORE | Supermajority or narrowed gap? The stakes for Grech and Abela

The scale of Labour’s victory will likely have a psychological effect which could shape and condition Robert Abela’s leadership in the next three years.

PN leader Bernard Grech has put his job on the line by committing himself to ask for a vote of confidence in the party’s general council if the PN fails to win its third seat.

Since 2022, Robert Abela’s U-turns have become even more abrupt as it became increasingly difficult for him to keep traditional Labourites, progressive voters, switchers and Muscat loyalists in the same tent.

At the same time, Abela and Labour has desperately tried to match electoral results which defy the laws of attrition.

The question is whether a reduced majority will condition the next three years of Labour government and how.

With three years to go before the next general election, Abela will have a harder time reconciling the contradictions in his broad coalition of voters, which is bound to be tested by the criminal prosecution of Joseph Muscat, and by urgent decisions needed to address pressing issues like traffic, inflation and land use.    

The dampened supermajority could be a wake-up call for Labour to listen to the people on their concerns, but it may well make the government more inward-looking and preoccupied with appeasing supporters through favours and patronage.

On the other hand, the PN may well gain traction the moment people start considering that a Labour government is not an inevitable outcome, attracting much needed resources and talent to the PN.

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

More in Ewropej 2024