VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela claimed victory in his country’s legislative elections on Sunday hours before official results were expected.
If victory is confirmed, it would mean Labor will begin its third consecutive term in power, beating its traditional rival, the Nationalist Party. The election was held on Saturday in the Mediterranean island nation of around 400,000 people which is a member of the European Union.
“We have a clear indication that the Labor Party will have an absolute majority,” Abela told Malta’s state broadcaster. Labor was leading in all opinion polls ahead of the poll.
About 85% of eligible voters cast their ballots. The normal participation rate generally exceeds 90%.
Abela became Prime Minister in January 2020 after the resignation of Joseph Muscat amid protests linked to the 2017 car bombing of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who investigated corruption and links between business interests and politicians in Malta.
During the election campaign, the sale of Maltese citizenship to the wealthy was criticized as part of EU sanctions against Russian oligarchs following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nationalists have called for the sale of citizenship to Russian nationals to be suspended. Earlier this month, Abela’s government suspended sales to Russian and Belarusian nationals, saying existing due diligence checks cannot be carried out effectively in the current war scenario.
Muscat had come under pressure to resign after a prominent local businessman, Yorgen Fenech, was arrested. An independent investigation, published in July 2021, into the bombing found that the Maltese state had to ‘take responsibility’ for the journalist’s murder due to the culture of impunity that emanated from the highest levels of the government. government at the time.
As in much of southern Europe, high prices have hurt energy consumers. The Maltese government subsidizes energy costs to keep prices stable, and both campaign parties have pledged to continue the subsidies.
Abela’s government was widely seen as having successfully managed the Covid-19 pandemic, with a number of measures to support businesses and workers, keeping unemployment low.
But a government decision to issue tax refunds and stimulus checks to the public midway through the campaign has sparked controversy.
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