Malta’s governing Labour Party (PL) has won a resounding fresh mandate in an early General Election called by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Allegations of financial scandals that persisted throughout a bad-tempered campaign did not seem to erode Muscat’s support, with his government instead reaping credit for the healthy state of the small country’s economy.
Labour’s winning score of 55 per cent (first preference votes) was within a whisker of its March 2013 result of 54.8 per cent. There was an uplift of less than half a percentage point for the challenging centre-right National Party (PN), to 43.7 per cent. This almost complete lack of progress led to the swift resignation of PN leader Simon Busuttil, along with the entire party leadership team.
As these figures show, Malta once again comfortably safeguarded its reputation for having the most concentrated two-party system in the world. Three minor parties and various independents took just 1.3 per cent of the votes between them, down from 1.8 per cent in 2013. There was no breakthrough whatsoever for the Green-oriented Democratic Alternative (AD) or for the new nationalist/right-wing populist Patriots party (MPM).
One minor tremor in the system, however, was the election of Marlene Farrugia. Although technically standing as a National party candidate, she remains leader of the tiny Democratic Party (PD), leading some to claim she is the first MP from outside the two main parties to be elected since Malta’s independence in 1963.
Turnout fell by around a percentage point to the lowest level seen in a General Election since 1966. However that is no reason to panic, because at 92.1 per cent participation, it remains the envy of practically every democracy.
The Single Transferable Vote System (STV) used in Malta has the merit of being highly proportional, but the drawback is an interminably long counting process. It was not until this afternoon of 6 June, three days after the ballot, and with up to 30 rounds of counting in some districts, that the final list of elected MPs was known. Even now, two additional seats are likely to be allocated above the base number of 65 MPs, in order to maintain proportionality.
How good were the polls?
Eight opinion polls were published by three different outlets during the month-long campaign (newspapers Malta Today and Malta Independent, along with Xarabank). Seven of the eight gave Labour clear leads ranging from 4.4 to 9.6 points. Xarabank’s sole poll showed just a 2.6 point gap over the National party.
These figures were in line with all previous pre-campaign polling: Labour had held a single figure poll lead since June 2015, and the last time the PN was ahead in any poll was in August 2014.
However none of the surveys anticipated the extent of Labour’s victory margin of 11 per cent. The weekly Malta Today surveys overpolled the PN by around three points and underpolled Labour by the roughly the same degree – leads given were 4.4, 5.0, 4.6 and 5.3 per cent during May. The paper’s possible explanations for these gaps can be read here.
The Malta Independent did a better job, showing rising Labour leads through the campaign of 5.7, 7.3 and finally 9.6 per cent in its three polls.
MALTA 3 June 2017
House of Representatives, first preference votes
(change on 9 March 2013 election)
Partit Laburista (Labour Party, PL) 170,976 or 55.04% (54.83%)
Partit Nazzjonalista (National Party, PN) 135,696 or 43.68% (43.34%)
Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) 2,564 or 0.83% (1.80%)
Moviment Patrijotti Maltin (MPM) 1,117 or 0.36% (n/a)
Alleanza Bidia (AB) 221 or 0.07% (n/a)
Indipendenti 91 or 0.03% (0.01%)
Provisional seat allocations (changes on 2013)
PL 37 (-2)
PN 28 (-2)
Total seats 65 (-4)
Two additional seats likely to be created
Registered voters 341,856
Votes cast 314,696
Valid votes 310,665
Invalid votes 4,031
Turnout 92.1% (2013: 93.0%)
Source: Electoral Commission Malta. Full breakdown here.
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