Labour wins by a landslide in Malta
11.03.13 @ 09:27
BRUSSELS - Joseph Muscat's Labour party romped to victory in Malta's general election on Sunday (10 March), ending 15 years in opposition.
With counting well under way, results indicated that Labour had claimed 55 percent of the vote, 12 percent ahead of the conservative Nationalist Party. Labour is projected to claim 38 seats in the 65 seat Parliament, the largest margin of victory for either group since Malta's independence from Britain in 1964.
The result will make 39-year-old Joseph Muscat, a former MEP, the youngest Prime Minister in the EU. Muscat said on Sunday that he had "not expected" such a strong win.
Meanwhile, Louis Grech and Edward Scicluna, themselves both sitting MEPs, were both elected to Malta's parliament and are expected to take ministerial positions in government.
The result was welcomed by the leader of the Socialist and Democrat group in Brussels, Hannes Swoboda, who said the election was the "latest sign that voters in Europe are fed up with right-wing austerity and want to see real change."
European Commission President Jose Barroso said in a statement he is ready "to work side by side with Malta."
One of Muscat's first acts as Prime Minister will be a trip to Brussels for Thursday's EU summit meeting.
For his part, the ousted leader Laurence Gonzi announced his resignation as party leader immediately after conceding defeat. He commented that "the Nationalist Party needs to begin a reform process and at the same remain rooted in its values."
Deputy leader Simon Busuttil, also an MEP, is an early favourite to succeed him after confirming that he would take up his seat in the national parliament.
The Gonzi administration was toppled in December after its 2013 budget proposal failed to secure a parliamentary majority.
Earlier last year, the government lost its one seat parliamentary majority when dissident MP Franco Debono withdrew his support after demanding the resignation of Gonzi and several other senior ministers.
With a population of just over 400,000, Malta is the smallest EU member state.
Despite being hit by two recessions in the last decade, the Mediterranean island has, at 73 percent, one of the lowest debt-to-GDP ratios. Its economy has also fared better than most of other eurozone countries, growing by 1 percent in 2012, and projected to expand by a further 1.5 percent in 2013.
Gonzi took Malta into the EU following a referendum to join the bloc in 2004. The country then swiftly joined the eurozone in 2008.