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MALTATODAY 28 March 2022

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2 maltatoday | MONDAY • 28 MARCH 2022 ELECTION 2022 'We need to be humble', Abela tells press Fears that a historically low turnout in the 2022 election would punish the Labour government, were killed with news that Robert Abela had clinched a third landslide for the PL Robert Abela and spouse Lydia (left) at the Naxxar counting hall Grech says Labour COVID cheques were corrupt practice MATTHEW VELLA NATIONALIST Party leader Bernard Grech visited the Naxx- ar counting hall to greet the PN's counting agents in a brave show of support. Unlike Simon Busuttil in the 2017 election, Grech made it a point to be at the counting hall in this most trying of hours, greet- ing most of the PN activists and also Labour activists inside the counting hall. Deputy leaders Robert Arrigo and David Agius were nowhere to be seen. He appeared hard-hit by the scale of the defeat, but he put on a brave face with all the PN agents, hugging and greeting them. After a lengthy tour of the counting hall, Grech's first analy- sis of the PN's defeat was less of a self-critical assessment and more of an accusation that Labour had engaged in corrupt practices by distributing pre-announced tax cuts and COVID relief cheques In first reaction to the press, PN leader Bernard Grech suggests distribution of COVID relief cheques in mid-election was 'corrupt practice' MALTA has elected a new ad- ministration, returning to pow- er the Labour Party with Robert Abela as prime minister in an election that yielded a histori- cally low turnout of 85.5%, down from 92% in 2017. Labour clinched 55.1% of the popular vote, but with less votes than in 2017 at 162,707 owing to the low turnout. But that shyness at the polls pun- ished the opposition National- ist Party, who garnered 41.7% of the popular vote, 123,233 votes in total, leaving an un- precedented super-majority of 39,474 votes for Labour. Voter turnout last dipped be- low 90% in 1966, when it stood at 89.7%. Other parties, mainly the tiny green party ADPD, clinched a higher than usual vote. In to- tal all non-elected parties gar- nered 9,308 (3.2%) votes. The election produced clear surprises: MPs who backed a rebellion against former party leader Adrian Delia were not elected, namely Jason Azzo- pardi and Karol Aquilina, while Delia was elected on two dis- tricts. Runners-up could still be elected in casual elections for seats vacated by MPs elected on two districts. Incumbent Labour MPs Joe Mizzi, Glenn Bedingfield, and Rosianne Cutajar, as well as veteran foreign minister Evar- ist Bartolo, were not elected. Election day on Saturday brought to an end a short 33- day campaign with well over 340,552 voters eligible to cast their votes. Official turnout figures until 2pm showed that 44.8% of the electorate had voted, a decline of eight points over the 2017 election. The campaign was fought mostly between the Labour Party, led by Prime Robert Ab- ela, and the Nationalist Party, led by Opposition leader Ber- nard Grech. Abela took over as PM after winning a party leadership bat- tle with deputy prime minister Chris Fearne, after the dis- graced exit of his predecessor, Joseph Muscat, in the wake of the arrest of magnate Yorgen Fenech. Grech was himself the winner of a party leadership contest with predecessor Adrian De- lia, who suffered a backbench rebellion in mid-2020. Delia, a backbench MP, is contesting on the eighth district With 355,025 registered vot- ers, a total of 14,473 voting documents remained uncol- lected – 4.1% of all eligible votes – almost double that of the 2.4% registered in 2017, and 2% in 2013.

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