Local council elections 2019: Labour’s deep south, and the PN’s uphill battle

The Labour Party draws its strength from blood-red strongholds in the south in contrast to the Nationalists’ few pockets of deep blue localities, showing the staying power Labour has at a local level

Labour’s mass meeting on 1 May in 2018
Labour’s mass meeting on 1 May in 2018

A swathe of dark red across all southern localities provides the backbone for the Labour Party’s strength across the island, colour charts reveal.

The party registered 60% or more of the vote in 25 towns and villages in the last round of local elections, 20 of them in the south.

This stands in deep contrast with a few pockets of dark blue for the Nationalist Party. The PN only managed to obtain 60% or more of the vote in just 10 localities, none of them in the south.

The electoral maps being produced here paint a clearer picture of the respective strength the two major parties enjoy across the 68 local councils. The results are based on the votes obtained in the last local elections held in 2013 and 2015.

The strength of the PL in the south is uncontested with the party enjoying strong support in large localities such as Żabbar, Marsaskala, Żurrieq, Birżebbuġa and Żejtun. It also enjoys strong support in the Gozitan localities of Sannat, Xewkija and Qala.

The PN’s strongest support can be found in the large localities of Sliema, St Julians, Swieqi and Attard, and the smaller villages of Balzan and Lija, in Malta.

It also enjoys support in excess of 60% in four Gozitan localities: Rabat and the miniscule localities of San Lawrenz, Fontana and Għarb.

The combined population coverage of the PL’s dark red localities is by far larger than that of the PN’s dark blue.

The maps confirm the pattern that has been observed since the 2013 general election, showing the PL consolidating its grip on the south and making inroads in traditional Nationalist districts. They also show how the PN has retreated from the south, which is also evident by fewer candidates it has fielded for the upcoming council elections.

Next month’s elections will be the first time that all 68 councils go to the polls together after the law was changed.

The PL has fielded 402 candidates, 27 more than it did in the last rounds, while the PN has fielded 299 candidates, 46 less.

Alternattiva Demokratika has fielded nine candidates, one less than last time, while the Democratic Party will be contesting local elections for the first time with seven candidates.

The Maltese Patriots Movement will field five candidates, while 16 candidates will run as independents.

The battleground localities

Close contests are expected in 10 localities, including Valletta, when council elections are held next month, a MaltaToday analysis shows.

The 10 localities were won by a mere five-point difference between the two major parties in the last elections held in 2013 and 2015. They could go either way this time around.

The battleground localities are Valletta, St Paul’s Bay, Mosta and Nadur, which returned a PN majority, and Pieta, Msida, Birkirkara, San Ġwann, Mtarfa and Mellieħa, which were won by the PL.

In Valletta, the PN won by 51.6% of the vote against the PL’s 48.4%. Disaffection in the capital has given the PL hope that it could win the council this time around, which prompted the party to field popular One TV presenter Alfred Zammit.

The St Paul’s Bay local council was won by the PN but this seaside locality with an ever-changing population has a history of swinging between the two major parties.

The PN won St Paul’s Bay by a relative majority of 47.7% against the PL’s 46.9%, with Alternattiva Demokratika capturing 3.5%.

The outgoing council was dogged by PN infighting and complaints from residents over lack of cleanliness. The PL has a chance of winning the council back but the performance of candidates running for the Democratic Party, the Patriots and an independent could upset the applecart for the major parties.

The PN had a more comfortable margin in Mosta where it won with 52.1% of the vote against the PL’s 47.9%. There were occasions when Mosta swung to Labour but it is very probable that the PN will retain its majority.

The fourth battleground locality with a PN majority is Nadur in Gozo. A Nationalist stronghold for long, this locality only just returned a PN majority last time around when the party won 50.2% of the vote against Labour’s 48.3%

The PL has made significant inroads across Gozo and it is not at all impossible for it to capture Nadur. If it does win a majority, it would deliver a hard blow to the PN in Gozo.

Pieta shifted to the PL last time around when the party captured 51.9% of the vote against the PN’s 48.1%. Labour is expected to hold on to its majority.

However, in neighbouring Msida the PL could see its fortunes change. Having won this council by a thin majority of 50.3% against the PN’s 49.7%, the PL’s chances to retain this locality have been damaged after a former councillor who fell out with the party is now contesting as an independent.

Msida has in the past returned a PN majority and it could very well do the same this time around.
Birkirkara will be one of the prized localities Labour would not want to lose after winning a wafer-thin majority of 50.4% against the PN’s 49.6%.

The PL may just cling on to its majority in this locality but much could depend on the performance of the candidates running for AD, PD and the Patriots.

In San Ġwann, the PL won by 50.9% against the PN’s 49.1% last time around. This council had in the past returned a PN majority and it could very well shift back in next month’s election.

Another swing locality held by the PL is Mellieħa. The PL won by 52.3% against the PN’s 47.7% and may very well keep its majority this time around.

In the small locality of Mtarfa the PL edged past the PN with 50.1% against 49.9%. This election could result in another close call but it is very likely the PL will retain its majority.

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