By Christopher Scicluna
VALLETTA (Reuters) -Malta’s ruling Labour party claimed victory on Sunday in national elections, while Prime Minister Robert Abela promised humility and a greener Malta as he celebrated his party’s third successive win.
Official results have yet to be declared, but the Labour Party said it expected its victory to be even bigger than the 55% majorities it won in 2013 and 2017. The opposition centre-right Nationalist Party conceded defeat.
This will be the first electoral mandate for Abela, who became Labour leader and prime minister in January 2020.
Addressing thousands of flag-waving supporters from a balcony at Labour headquarters just outside Valletta, Abela repeatedly insisted that his hallmark would be humility.
“Humility will characterise this government, I will insist on humility from those chosen to work within it, and I will lead by example,” Abela, son of former Maltese President George Abela, said.
He said his government would seek national unity, insisting that everyone had a contribution to give to the country.
With his wife and 10-year-old daughter beside him, he said he wanted to achieve better living standards, better opportunities for all, and a more environment-friendly Malta.
Environmental issues were seen as one of the outgoing government’s weakest points as Malta, Europe’s most densely populated island, had a building boom that encroached on open spaces.
The building spree was a result of a strong economy which attracted thousands workers to the island.
Abela was credited with keeping the economy going through the COVID-19 crisis, maintaining public support through generous assistance to businesses and consumer vouchers to all residents.
He kept unemployment at a record low, froze energy costs despite soaring prices abroad, and raised pensions repeatedly. His Labour government has never raised taxes and says it will not do so.
Over the past year Abela also ushered in a raft of rule-of-law reforms to counter claims of government corruption and greylisting of Malta by the FATF, the global watchdog on money laundering.
Abela was largely unaffected by repeated allegations of corruption made against his party by Bernard Grech’s Nationalist Party. Grech, like Abela, is a lawyer.
Abela’s predecessor Joseph Muscat resigned after the arrest of businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was accused of complicity in the murder of anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.
Fenech had been a close friend of Muscat’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri. Both Muscat and Schembri denied having had prior knowledge of the murder.
(Reporting by Cristopher SciclunaEditing by Gareth Jones and Jane Merriman)