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Malta vote too close to call

Latest update : 2008-03-09

Rival government and opposition supporters celebrated in the streets of Malta on Sunday, each side claiming victory in weekend parliamentary elections, but party officials said the result was too close to call.

Malta's elections were too close to call on Sunday after half of the votes were counted, the general secretary of the incumbent Nationalist Party and an opposition official said.
  
"The parties are so close that we have to sample all the votes," Nationalist chief Joe Saliba told reporters, adding that the results would not be known until all the votes are counted, expected around 9:00 pm (2000 GMT).
  
Michael Falzon, a deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, praised the "prudence and calmness" of both parties, saying: "It is good that no one is speculating" on the results.
  
Voters in the Mediterranean island state are used to learning the projected results -- usually quite reliable -- by midday on the day following an election.
  
Nearly 300,000 people voted in the polls, which enjoyed a turnout of some 93 percent.
  
Representatives from both parties, who had been expected to make a projection after the first 30,000 votes were tallied, appealed for calm as counting continued.
  
The Nationalists won the country's closest election in 1997 by about 4,000 votes.
  
Saturday's vote was the first since the island state became the European Union's smallest member in 2004, with opinion polls showing the two main parties running neck and neck but nearly 11 percent undecided.
  
The elections followed a blistering election campaign in the politically polarised Mediterranean nation.
  
While 54-year-old Nationalist Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi ran on economic achievements, his challenger, Labour Party leader Alfred Sant, 60, has pushed an anti-corruption platform.
  
Malta, with a population of some 400,000, has been ruled by one or the other of the two main parties since independence from Britain in 1964.
  
It joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the euro this year.
  
The Nationalists won 35 seats to Labour's 30 in the 2003 elections.

Date created : 2008-03-09

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