Joseph Muscat Gets Labour's First Seat

By Herman Grech
Published June 15th 2004 in The Times of Malta

Joseph Muscat was the Labour Party's first candidate to obtain a passport to the European Parliament yesterday after he reached the required quota on the second day of counting.

Late on Sunday night, Nationalist Party candidate Simon Busuttil made his way into the European Parliament in dramatic fashion, obtaining 58,899 first preference votes, way above the quota of 40,954.

He of course had the highest profile of the PN candidates, having become a household name with his headship of the Malta-EU Information Centre in the long run-up to the membership referendum, an appointment he was given under the premiership of Eddie Fenech Adami.

The Labour Party was still basking in glory yesterday after obtaining 48.42 per cent of the vote, outrunning the Nationalists, who got 39.76 per cent, in the race for the votes. Alternattiva Demokratika gained 9.52 per cent and independent candidates 2.3 per cent.

In total, the MLP tally exceeded the Nationalists' by 21,295 votes.

However the Labour Party's share of the vote was down by over 15,000 compared with last year's general election, while the PN's was down by 44,000. The general election turnout was, however, considerably higher than on Saturday.

A total of 4,969 of the 245,722 votes cast on Saturday were invalid.

Joseph Muscat, 30, obtained 36,958 first preference votes and reached the required quota on the tenth count with 41,984 votes.

The second PN seat is expected to be contested between David Casa and Joanna Drake, though the former pro-EU movement Iva spokesman has a vote advantage over Dr Drake.

The second Labour seat is expected to go to John Attard Montalto, who obtained 25,287 first preference votes.

The fifth seat looks like it will be a close call, with Labour candidates Louis Grech, Joe Debono Grech and Glenn Bedingfield vying for it, though AD's Arnold Cassola is considered to still have an outside chance.

The most successful candidate by far was Dr Busuttil, 35, who obtained 60.1 per cent of the Nationalist vote.

As expected, the majority of his second count votes were inherited by his party fellow candidates, especially David Casa (8,826), Joanna Drake (4,098) and Joe Friggieri (1,553). Prof. Cassola inherited 478 votes.

Sixty-eight individuals who gave their first preference to Dr Busuttil went on to vote for Labour candidates.

There were other noteworthy trivia emerging out of Ta' Qali yesterday, where the tired faces of party officials were already beginning to show.

Nationalist Party agents estimate that no fewer than 80 per cent of Prof. Cassola's second preference votes went to Nationalist candidates, strengthening the PN administration's theory that AD had cost them dear.

Rather ironically, 56 people who gave their first preference to Lino Farrugia, the hunters' representative, went on to give their second preference to the hunters' arch enemy, AD, which wants an end to spring hunting.

The counting of votes in the European Parliament elections is a long and complicated process, particularly because of the large quotas needed to determine who gets elected.

Candidates who did not reach the required quota on the first count are inheriting votes according to the single transferable vote system. A number of recounts have to be made to determine who will inherit the subsequent preferences.