Muscat toasts ‘historic’ Labour victory, refutes correlation with hunting vote

Labour leader Joseph Muscat says result in Gozo is not a reflection of spring hunting vote

Muscat said Labour would 'keep its feet firmly to the ground'
Muscat said Labour would 'keep its feet firmly to the ground'

Labour leader Joseph Muscat said today that the party’s majority of almost 54% of the votes was a ‘historic’ victory as it became the first ruling party to win the local council elections.

Addressing a press conference at the Auberge de Castille, Muscat argued that Labour’s successive wins in the general election, the MEP elections, as well as the local council elections, suggest a “national trend” in the country’s voting.

Muscat insisted that in spite of its victory, the Labour Party would remain with its firmly feet on the ground and that it would not become arrogant. Nevertheless, he said that the increase in PN voting in certain localities, as well those who opted not to vote, would not be ignored.

Asked to explain Labour’s loss in votes in the fifth district – which includes traditional strongholds such as Marsaxlokk and Birzebbugia –  the prime minister acknowledged that the Opposition’s criticism at Labour’s energy plan influenced the voters.

However, Muscat explained that the argument is two pronged; on the hand there were voters who voted for the Labour Party because they wanted the power station to be converted to gas, while others chose not to vote because they felt “disenfranchised from the majority.”

“I will take these points into account, but we are not seeing any noteworthy changes when this result is compared with that of the general election and the MEP elections,” he said.

Moreover, asked whether the party’s result in Gozo, most notably its increase in voting in Ghajniselem, Xaghra, Qala, and Munxar, Muscat, was as a result of a majority vote in favour of spring hunting and the mass mobilisation of voters, Muscat refuted the correlation, describing it as  “superfluous” and “surreal.”

“The spring hunting referendum and the result of the local council elections are two distinct issues.  It may have influenced the result in some localities, but arguing that this reflected in a national trend would be mistaken. The voting in Gozo reflects the shift that had already taken place in the general elections,” he said. Nevertheless, the prime minsiter conceded that the referendum encouraged more people to vote.

Taking a swipe at PN leader Simon Busuttil, Muscat explained that even though the PN recorded more votes than the 2012 local council elections, it was “extreme” for the party to be celebrating a loss.

“I understanding that Simon Busuttil is afraid of losing his position, so he must even celebrate defeat. This shows that it is a time of extremes, but as long as he is happy, then everyone is,” he quipped.

Despite the PN recording an increase in voting when compared with the 2012 local council elections – during which the same local councils were up for election – Muscat compared the result with the votes garnered by the Labour Party during the 2013 general election and the 2014 MEP elections.

“Even though we are in the middle of the legislature, the majority of the country voted for the Labour Party. The result is nearly identical to that recorded in the general election and MEP elections. Once again, the country has chosen optimism over negativity,” he said.

“To put things into perspective, when the PN was in government, it only managed to win the local council elections in 2000 when it had achieved 49% of the vote. The PN’s best result of the local council elections was in 1998 when it garnered 53% of the vote. This year, 54% of the country voted for the Labour Party.”

He pointed out that the Labour Party is “satisfied” with the result, and that it was more than he had envisaged. Moreover, he insisted that the government would take Labour’s victory in its stride in order to convert it into more work and optimism.