Malta votes to retain spring hunting with slim 2,220 majority

The divide between centres of liberal voters and rural areas will not go unnoticed. In Gozo, 62% of some 22,800 voters voted ‘yes’; but in the tenth district, 70% of 17,400 voters voted ‘no’. The major difference was the turnout: less people came out to vote in the tenth district.

Hunting campaign spokesperson Kathleen Grima
Hunting campaign spokesperson Kathleen Grima
Joe Perici Calascione and Kathleen Grima.
Joe Perici Calascione and Kathleen Grima.
Masters of the hunt: FKNK chief executive Lino Farrugia and president Joe Perici Calascione at the Msida offices of the hunting lobby. Photo: John Pisani
Masters of the hunt: FKNK chief executive Lino Farrugia and president Joe Perici Calascione at the Msida offices of the hunting lobby. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani
Hunters celebrate their referendum win in Qormi. Photo: John Pisani

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Another historic referendum for the Maltese has sealed the thinnest of majorities of just 2,220 votes to retain a spring hunting season despite an EU ban.

Voters were called to the polls on Saturday after the Campaign Against Spring Hunting successfully presented 40,000 signatures in a petition for an abrogative referendum, to demand that the government no longer derogates from the EU ban.

The campaign supporting spring hunting, which voted Yes to retain the derogation, managed to bring out the vote in traditional hunting districts.

The hunting lobby’s chief executive, Lino Farrugia, was nowhere to be seen throughout the campaign but was at the Naxxar counting hall to reap the fruits of his victory: 126,434 votes in favour of the derogation, against 124,214 votes against.

The margin was enough to force Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to warn hunters he would close the season if illegalities persist, originally the reason why campaigners demanded the referendum.

Crucially, hunters found majorities in Labour-leaning electoral districts and in Gozo. Muscat played down claims that the Labour Party’s electoral machine actively supported hunting campaigners, echoing the prime minister’s declared intention to vote ‘yes’.

On the other hand, the Spring Hunting Out (Shout) campaign garnered majorities in the inner harbour’s first district, and in pale-blue districts, urban centres and outer harbour areas in the east and north like Sliema, St Julian’s and St Paul’s Bay.

The divide between centres of liberal voters and rural areas will not go unnoticed. In Gozo, 62% of some 22,800 voters voted ‘yes’; but in the tenth district, 70% of 17,400 voters voted ‘no’. The major difference was the turnout: less people came out to vote in the tenth district.

Local councils in 34, mainly Labour-led localities, were also held, serving as a pull factor for voters. Large numbers of undecided voters could have been swayed by Labour’s perceived allegiance to the hunting fraternity, or by a protest vote against the Prime Minister, whose concessions to the hunting lobby are dictated by a pre-electoral agreement.

Hunters in Malta can hunt for two species of bird during 20 days of spring, on condition that they keep within a quota of some 11,000 turtle dove and 5,500 quail – in a derogation from the EU ban that was confirmed by the European Court of Justice when the Maltese government was taken to court by the European Commission.

Conservationists claim the government is not applying the derogation in strict conformity with the Birds Directive, which bans hunting in spring, and that hunters do not declare their full catches.

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