Parliamentary elections were held in Malta on Sunday, March 27th. Incumbent Prime Minister Robert Abela retained an absolute majority with the Partit Laburista (Labour Party), which has governed Malta since the 2013 elections.
The election was characterised by the lowest participation rate in the country since 1955, with a turnout of 85%. For the first time, teenagers aged 16 to 18 were able to take part in the vote.
The previous elections were held early in 2017. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was implicated in a political and financial scandal following revelations in the Malta Files and the Panama Papers, but at the time this did not prevent him from being re-elected, and the Labour Party retained its majority. An investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was looking into these scandals, was murdered a few months after the election, causing great commotion in the country. In 2020, Muscat eventually resigned after being compromised in new corruption cases.
The current Prime Minister Robert Abela came to power in 2020 following the departure of Joseph Muscat, and since Sunday’s decisive election, he will continue to lead Malta in this capacity. The Labour Party won 55% of the vote and 38 seats—with an absolute majority of 33 seats.
The main opponent of Robert Abela since 2020 had been the leader of the Nationalist Party (Partit Nazzjonalista) Bernard Grech. During the campaign, Grech mainly focused his attacks on the corruption of the outgoing government. Malta was placed on a “grey list” of countries under increased scrutiny by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) last year for money laundering and terrorist financing, and is criticised for its “golden passport” scheme granting citizenship to wealthy investors who often never visit. Some efforts were made to improve Malta’s image on that point, although Abela suspended the scheme for Russians and Belarussians after the invasion of Ukraine. Grech also accused the Abela government of “buying” the votes of its voters by generously distributing aid related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite his defeat, Grech intends to retain his mandate as party leader. A practising Catholic, he had campaigned in 2011 against the legalisation of divorce in Malta. He also remains opposed to the legalisation of abortion in his country. Pope Francis will make an official visit to Malta in a few days.
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).