Voting starts in Malta's parliamentary elections

Polls showing the ruling Nationalist Party running neck-and-neck with the Labour Party.

Voting starts in Malta's parliamentary elections

Polling booths in Malta opened Saturday morning, as the Mediterranean island chose its first government since joining the European Union. The result was expected to be the tightest in years, with polls showing the ruling Nationalist Party (PN) running neck-and-neck with the Labour Party.

Saturday's election was the culmination of a five-week campaign, in which the first few days of constructive criticism and debate degenerated into accusations of corruption, mud-throwing and below- the-belt jabs.

The outcome of the election could well depend on the performance of the small Green Party Alternattiva Demokratika, which could snatch a few vital votes from the PN party of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, perhaps enough to tilt the balance.

If so, power would go to Alfred Sant, a 60-year-old Harvard graduate who is known for his no-nonsense style of politics, as much as for his lack of charm. During a 22-month stint as prime minister in the late 1990s, Sant froze Malta's EU membership bid. However, his party has now taken a neutral stand on Europe.

Election fever has gripped the island in the last few weeks, with tens of thousands attending the two main parties' mass meetings on Thursday night. Just over 300,000 are eligible to vote.

Around 95 per cent of the electorate normally comes out to cast their vote in Malta, the highest turnout in Europe.

Agencies
Last Mod: 09 Mart 2008, 10:41
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