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MALTATODAY 9 June 2019

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11 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 9 JUNE 2019 NEWS that there was no significant amount of PN voters who vot- ed for Metsola or Casa in MEP elections and then abstained in the local elections. Therefore the increased gap between the two parties in lo- cal elections cannot be attrib- uted to abstention among PN voters. This is confirmed by the PN's increased share of the vote in localities like Sliema, Attard and Lija where the drop in turnout did not penalise the PN. 2. The actual num- ber of PN voters in MEP elections was lower than in the 2014 elections and lower than in con- current local elec- tions One indication that some PN voters may have preferred to stay at home is that despite the increase in the number of voters, the actual number of PN voters dropped in absolute terms from 100,705 in 2014 to only 98, 611 in the 2019 Euro- pean elections, despite an in- crease of 12,434 voters. Yet some of these voters may well have voted for third par- ties. In fact, the number of those voting PN in parallel local elections was higher, reaching 103,398. This is a clear indica- tion that 4,787 voters voted for another party in the European elections and then voted for a PN candidate in local elections. But the results also indicate there was an even larger num- ber of voters who voted La- bour in local elections, and another party in MEP elec- tions. Moreover the PN actu- ally got 4,787 votes more in lo- cal elections than in European elections, while Labour got 9,247 votes over and above its European tally. 3. In an indication that the PL lost votes to third par- ties, it performed better in local elections where Norman Lowell was not a factor Labour performed better in local elections where third parties got 5,762 votes, than in the European elections where third parties got almost 20,000 votes – indeed increasing their vote share from 6.6% in 2014 (16,604 votes) to 7.8% (19654 votes). Labour's better performance in local elections seems to contradict Muscat's attempt at transforming the MEP elec- tions into a presidential con- test: by performing better at the local elections, which were less associated with Muscat's national appeal, such results suggest grassroots strength and augur well for La- bour's post-Muscat future. Therefore, considering that on the same day an equal amount of voters voted in both elections, and Labour's major- ity increased from 42,656 in MEP elections to 47,116 in local elections, one can only conclude Labour performed better in direct contests with the PN – that is in 44 out 67 local elections held – because third parties only contested 23 localities. One possibility is that of a disjointed vote where voters opted for third parties in MEP elections and Labour in local elections. The limited infor- mation from vote transfers in MEP elections suggests that PD candidates were more PN- leaning while Lowell's voters were marginally PL-leaning. But since Lowell, and to a lesser extent, the PD's Cami Appelgren were eliminated at a very late stage, their non- transferable votes could well have included preferences to candidates which by that stage had already been elected or eliminated. Another possibility is that the more limited third party vote in local elections penal- ised the PN more than the PL, as was surely the case in Gharb, where a list headed by a former PN mayor won 417 votes and to a lesser ex- tent in Haz-Zebbug where votes for independent candi- date Steve Zammit Lupi large- ly penalised the PN. In some localities like Sliema, Lija and Attard, the PN managed to increase its share by clawing back votes from third parties. Yet the PL still managed to increase its vote by three per- centage points in Attard, two points in Lija and one point in Sliema. The PN's decline in south- ern localities was even more dramatic, with the PL gaining six points in Birzebbugia and seven points in Mqabba. Pos- sibly it is former PN voters in southern localities rather than those living in the north har- bour who pose the greatest difficulty for the party. Ignor- ing these voters to keep the party afloat in northern afflu- ent localities may have been the party's greatest flaw in these elections. 4. Surveys are the only reliable way to assess the shift from PN to the PL over 2017 figures While the results cannot con- clusively prove that there was a shift from the PN to the PL, surveys whose results were vin- dicated by the results of these elections, did predict a small but significant shift from the PN to the PL. The overall MEP results do not confirm that such a shift took place. But it may be pos- sible that in MEP elections the shift between the two main parties was offset by La- bour voters opting for a third party like Lowell, only to re- turn back to Labour in local elections. The last MT survey before the election showed that while 5% of PN voters in 2017 intended to vote Labour, only 2% of PL voters in 2017 intended to vote PN. Moreover, while 2% of PL voters trusted Delia more than Muscat, 8% of PN voters trust- ed Muscat more than Delia. Previous surveys had shown a similar trend. While it is not clear whether any such shift occurred in MEP elections due to the relatively high share taken by third par- ties, it is possible that this shift was partly reflected in results for local elections. 5. Surveys which correctly predicted the abstention rate also suggested a higher rate of abstention in PN cohort In the last MaltaToday sur- vey, 28% were either still un- decided or declared their in- tention not to vote in MEP elections. This was just 1 per- centage point more than the percentage of voters who ab- stained in the actual election. While PN voters were more undecided on how they would be voting, a larger number of PL voters were saying that they would not be voting. In fact, the last survey showed that while 9% of PL voters were intent on not voting, only 5% of PN voters expressed the same intention. On the oth- er hand while 23% of PN vot- ers were undecided, only 11% of PL voters were undecided. This means that while 28% of PN voters were undecided or intent not to vote, 20% of PL voters were in the same posi- tion. This confirms a higher abstention rate among PN voters. But it is also possible that some undecided PN voters ultimately opted to vote for Casa, who in the same sur- vey was still trailing behind Frank Psaila, who ultimately got 7,000 less votes than Casa. Overall surveys suggest that while abstention was margin- ally higher among PN vot- ers, it was also substantial among Labour voters. In fact, the extent of La- bour's victory in both elections raised the question whether the PL even has a pale-red category willing to lash out at government in mid-term elec- tions, especially in local elec- tions where one would expect discontentment on environ- mental issues to surface. It is also possible that some in this category of Labour vot- ers did not vote. Possibly their abstention left no mark on the result because their impact was offset by an even larger number of disgruntled PN vot- ers who also stayed at home. In this way any message of dis- sent from these voters failed to reach its destination, be- ing drowned out by the noise of Labour's victory. Left: One can deduce that there was no significant amount of PN voters who voted for Roberta Metsola (right) or David Casa (left) in MEP elections and then abstained in the local elections. Therefore the increased gap between the two parties in local elections cannot be attributed to abstention among PN voters. Right: Labour's better performance in local elections seems to contradict Muscat's attempt at transforming the MEP elections into a presidential contest

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