​Election Day: Malta goes to the polls today at end of calm campaign

Polling stations open at 7am as nation votes at the end of a calm 33-day electoral campaign that lacked the high intensity of 2017

Polling stations open in Malta at 7am and close at 10pm
Polling stations open in Malta at 7am and close at 10pm

Malta goes to the polls today with polling stations opening at 7am until 10pm, uninterrupted.

Election day brings to an end a short 33-day campaign with well over 340,552 voters eligible to cast their votes.

The campaign is fought mostly between the Labour Party, led by Prime Robert Abela, and the Nationalist Party, led by Opposition leader Bernard Grech.

Abela took over as PM after winning a party leadership battle with deputy prime minister Chris Fearne, after the disgraced 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 Delia, who suffered a backbench rebellion in mid-2020. Delia, a backbench MP, is contesting on the eighth district.

Adding to the PL (69 candidates), PN (70 candidates) and ADPD (10 candidates) –  the merger of Green Party Alternattiva Demokratika with Partit Demokratiku – is Christian-conservative party ABBA (14 candidates), the far-right Partit Popolari (8 candidates), progressive pan-European formation Volt Malta (2 candidates) and four independent candidates.

A total of 177 candidates will be competing for 65 constituency seats, with ‘bonus’ seats being added to reflect the overall first preference votes for the party that wins a majority.

In 2021, parliament approved a new law that allows up to 12 extra seats to be awarded to the under-represented gender. However, this mechanism will only apply if two political parties are elected to parliament.

And the Constitutional Court has upheld an appeal filed by independent candidate Arnold Cassola and ordered the continuation of a case in which he is challenging the gender quota because mechanism kicks in only if two political parties are represented in parliament.

The new gender mechanism kicks in after the election process concludes and all MPs are known – even those elected in casual elections. The Electoral Commission determines if any gender representation falls below 40%. This is very likely to be women. In this case, extra seats are awarded to either side of the House to be filled by unelected women candidates in a bid to reach the 40% threshold. However, the extra seats are capped at 12 – six for either side.

This is the 13th election since Malta gained its Independence.

With 355,025 registered voters, a total of 14,473 voting documents remained uncollected – 4.1% of all eligible votes – almost double that of the 2.4% registered in 2017, and 2% in 2013.

The 12th district, comprised of Naxxar, St Paul’s Bay, and Mellieha, had the highest number of uncollected voting documents – 2,529 (8.95%).  

The second highest number of uncollected documents was in the 10th district, comprised of Gżira, part of Naxxar and Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, Pembroke, and St Julian’s, where 1,876 (7%) documents remained uncollected.

Malta will have 742 ballot boxes at 116 different polling stations across the islands.

After the boxes are sealed and taken to the Naxxar counting hall, the counting staff will start the rigorous exercise of turning the ballot sheets face down.

After voting closes at 10pm, ballot boxes will start being taken to the Naxxar counting hall, at which point ballot reconciliation is carried out. The voter turnout will be known at around 2-3am.

Due to the new electronic counting system for votes, the unofficial winning party will be declared at around 10am, but candidates elected on each district will no longer be known - the traditional pigeonhole system will no longer be used.

The official result will also be published early on Monday morning.