[ANALYSIS] How Labour achieved a 9-seat advantage

This is the largest seat advantage since Independence.

On Tuesday 12th April, the electoral process was concluded and as a result it was confirmed that the Labour Party had achieved a 9-seat advantage in the House of Representatives. This exceeds by two seats the gap that resulted from the 2017 election. The gap equals that which arose after the 2013 election. It was only as a result of the 1947 election that in Malta’s history there was an administration with a larger seat advantage than the current one.

Due to the gender balance mechanism, the number of parliamentary seats increased by 12, or 6 per party. If one excludes this adjustment, the Nationalist Party reduced a seat compared to the 2017 election. This occurred in the fifth district where despite Bernard Grech running on this area, the Nationalist Party reduced its vote share from 33.3% to 31.8%.

To cover up this disgrace the Party leadership chose to utilise in this district the adjustment in seats that the constitution allows so that seat proportionality reflects the difference in overall votes. Previously they had used this in the fourth district. So as a result of this decision in the fourth district the Nationalist Party now has only one MP when previously it had two.  

The constitutional mechanism gave another seat to the Nationalists. In 2013 and 2017 they had used it in Gozo so as to contrast the fact Labour had managed to take one of their Gozitan seats. This time round they used it in the seventh district. This meant that for the first time since 1955 there are more Gozitan Labour MPs than there are Gozitan Nationalist MPs. 

The PN’s decision appears to have been dictated by two considerations. Firstly, the Delia faction was clear that it would not accept any of the other Gozitan candidates, three of whom were integral members of the Blue Heroes group. The second consideration was that the Nationalist leadership knew that with the gender balance mechanism a Gozitan Labour candidate would be elected and so they knew that no matter what they were no longer a match for Labour in Gozo.

The seat difference between the parties remained the same in the sixth, tenth and eleventh districts, partly because no women got elected by means of the gender balance mechanism. 

By contrast, the first district was the one that was most affected by the gender balance mechanism as three women were elected, two for the Labour Party and one for the Nationalist Party. This led to the widening of the seat gap between the two Parties.

In the second district the reverse occurred as the gender balance mechanism led to a lower gap between the two Parties because a Nationalist candidate was elected through it. In the eighth, ninth and twelfth districts, the mechanism by leading to female Nationalist candidates being elected led to an increase of one seat in the gap in seats in favour of the Nationalist Party. 

In the third district the gap remained at three Members in favour of the Labour Party because the gender balance mechanism led to the election of a Labour and a Nationalist candidate. In the seventh district the gap in seats remained unchanged because the Nationalist Party used the adjustment given to it by the constitution, and this countered the additional Labour candidate who was elected through the gender balance mechanism.

In the fourth district the gap in favour of the Labour Party doubled. This because of the decision of the Nationalist Party not to use the constitutional adjustment here as it did in 2017. Moreover, the gender balance mechanism led to the election of an additional Labour candidate. This makes the district the one with the largest seat majority for the Labour Party at four seats – almost half of the nationwide gap.

The fact that the Nationalist leadership chose to ignore this district and not use here the constitutional adjustment can only be because there was great resistance to use it to favour Jason Azzopardi. Bernard Grech also wanted to cover up his miserable failure in the fifth district where his Party managed to lose a seat despite him running there.

Finally, in Gozo the gender balance mechanism and the choice of the Nationalist leadership not to use the constitutional adjustment in the thirteenth district means that the Labour Party has now two Gozitan MPs more than the Nationalist Party.

This is a just result as Gozo was the district where the Labour Party has most increased votes in this election. This result itself reflected two factors. The Labour administration did wonders to help the Gozitan economy keep going during the pandemic, while the Party presented voters with an excellent line-up of candidates in the district. On the other hand, there was a huge divide among Gozitan PN candidates who were mainly interested in undermining each other.

As a result, Gozo has become a veritable Labour stronghold and it is only in the third and fourth districts that the Labour Party enjoys a larger seat advantage than the one it enjoys in the thirteenth.

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