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MaltaToday 30 March 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 30 MARCH 2022 2 NEWS 2022 ELECTION Labour won the popular vote with less votes than in 2017 at 162,707 owing to a low turnout, but that shyness at the polls punished the opposition Nationalist Party MATTHEW VELLA LABOUR'S overall vote fell by 8,269 over the 2017 election as turnout in the 2022 election fell to a historic low of 85.5%, still high by European standards. But the Opposition Nationalist Par- ty's vote count fell by 12,463 votes since 2017, suggesting more former PN voters stayed at home, or invalidated their vote. 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 punished the op- position Nationalist Party, who garnered 41.7% of the popular vote, 123,233 votes in total, leaving an unprecedented su- per-majority of 39,474 votes for Labour. In 2017 there were over 310,000 valid votes – turnout less invalidated votes – cast, compared to the 295,000 valid votes cast in this election, a difference of just over 15,000 votes. That means that 45.8% of eligible vot- ers voted for Labour, 4.2 points less than then 2017 election; 34.7% voted PN, 5 points less than 2017: at least 20% of el- igible voters chose neither party, double that of 2017. Additionally, despite a greater voting population, less people voted in this elec- tion (6.5 points down from 2017), more people invalidated their vote (at 8,802 double the 4,031 invalid votes of 2017), and twice as many voted for small parties or independents (3.2% compared to 1.3% in 2017). In this apparent environment of ab- stentionism, the drop in votes punished a weaker Nationalist Party more than Labour, which managed to turn out the vote on Saturday successfully, limiting the damage it could have suffered. Robert Abela's closing appeals to elec- tors were marked by constant reminders that abstaining was not an option for voters. And after a shock midday turnout of 2pm of 40%, Labour rallied its troops, with frantic calls from ministers and even the prime minister himself to get out the Labour vote. The Nationalist's losses were apparent in the south, where it lost a second seat in the fifth district (Zurrieq) to Labour to turn it deep red, as well as in the north 'Nationalist' 12th district (Mellieha, Naxxar) where it held with a relative ma- jority of just over 49%. But this district has suffered gerrymandering with part of Birguma annexed to the safe Nationalist 10th district (Sliema, St Julian's). KURT SANSONE THERE were almost 60,000 people in Saturday's election who either abstained or spoiled their vote, almost double the number from five years ago. By the time polling stations closed at 10pm on Saturday, 51,500 people chose not to vote, leading to a historically low turnout of 85.5%. These included those who did not even bother to pick up their voting document. However, there were an additional 8,227 who went to the polling station but decided to spoil their ballot. This figure is twice as much as five years ago. Although by European standards these numbers are not extraordinary, they may be signalling a shift in the Maltese men- tality. Political party strategists will be trying to understand who these people are and why they chose to protest in this way. The high abstention was also accompa- nied by a reduction in votes for both ma- jor parties and an increase of more than 5,000 votes for third parties. The Labour Party's victory gave it an impressive 39,000-vote lead over the Na- tionalist Party, which was hit hardest by the high abstention rate. Whether general elections will adopt the same trend as European Parliament elections, where the abstention rate is much higher, still has to be seen but Sat- urday's numbers will have party officials scratching their head. Labour vote falls by 8,200 but low turnout punishes PN Abstention election sees protest vote double

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