Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat won a second term in office after calling a snap parliamentary election last month to counter allegations of corruption against his wife and some of his political allies.
Muscat’s Labour Party won 55 percent of votes in Saturday’s election, handing it an absolute majority in the 65-seat parliament, according to political sources on both sides involved in the vote tally.
The Labour Party had polled about five percentage points ahead of the rival Nationalist Party going into the vote. Nationalist Party chief Simon Busuttil called Muscat and conceded defeat on Sunday morning.
Muscat’s supporters celebrated the victory on the streets of the Mediterranean island, blaring car horns and waving flags.
“Thank you for this big vote of confidence,” Muscat told thousands of cheering supporters at his party’s just outside the capital.
“You have confirmed your confidence in the movement despite one of the most negative electoral campaigns in the country’s history,” he said, pledging to push through legislation that had been put on hold for the vote.
Muscat has promised to cut taxes and raise pensions, tackle traffic congestion, and legalize gay marriage.
The 43-year-old Muscat will be sworn in on Monday, after which he will begin forming his new government that will have a five-year mandate.
About 92 percent of the island’s 342,000 eligible voters cast a ballot, the electoral commission said.
Muscat based his campaign on Malta’s buoyant economy, which has been one of the strongest in the euro zone over the past four years. Growth is running at about 6 percent, unemployment is at a record low of about 4 percent, and wages and pensions are rising.
Malta, which has a population of 400,000, is the European Union’s smallest state and currently holds the bloc’s six-month rotating presidency.
Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has vowed to introduce marriage equality
The leader of the Maltese Labour Party made the pledge after winning a second term in office on Saturday. He called a snap election following allegations of corruption against his wife and political allies.
All major parties had agreed on legalising same-sex marriage if they won the election.
During his victory speech, Muscat said: “The people have confirmed their trust in this movement, despite it being the target of one of the most negative campaigns in our country’s history.
“Those who thought that the Maltese people would choose negativity don’t truly know the Maltese people, because the Maltese people choose positivity, optimism, energy, goodwill, unity and equality.”
Muscat has pledged to start his five-year term by reforming marriage laws to include same-sex couples, with progress on the matter expected before parliament dissolves for the summer.
Same-sex civil unions have been available in Malta since 2014, and the country became the first in Europe to outlaw the harmful practice of gay ‘conversion therapy’ under Muscat’s leadership last year.
Cutting taxes, raising pensions, and tackling traffic congestion on the island are also part of Muscat’s plan.
Malta, which has a population of 400,000 and is the EU’s smallest state, has consistently been ranked as one of the best places to live for LGBT+ people due to their equality laws and tolerant society.
Despite their tolerance towards the LGBT+ community, Malta remains socially conservative – divorces weren’t permitted in the country until 2013, and abortion remains illegal.
PM Muscat commits himself to passing gay marriage law before summer
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, upon entering the Naxxar counting hall, said that the results are “humbling”.
Taking comments, he said that Parliament has much work to do, that it will be meeting before the summer recess and that the government is committed to passing the gay marriage legislation that has been sitting on the shelf.
Dr Muscat has just won the snap-election by a significant majority, with unofficial figures citing a 34,000 majority. This translates into a PL victory of 54.9%, with the PN managing to gain 43.8% of the vote.
In comments to this newsroom, Dr Muscat said that the resutls illustrate the trust shown to him by the people, and also indicate that surveys were pointing in the right direction.
He again committed this Government to continue leading the way in civil liberties. He said that before summer ends, his Government will be concentrating on passing the gay marriage law.