Events at the Naxxar counting hall turned the MEP elections on their head yesterday after the PL secured a fourth seat in the afternoon, with John Attard Montalto mounting a stunning leap-frog comeback to oust Marlene Mizzi and push Joseph Cuschieri down the pecking order.
Dr Attard Montalto was not one of the favourites to secure a seat in this election and his sudden jump up the leader board raised a good number of eyebrows.
The PN’s David Casa was the second candidate to be elected with quota at 7.45 pm after inheriting all the votes from Roberta Metsola Tedesco Triccas who was knocked out of the contest earlier in the day.
Mr Casa had just over 15,000 with a final tally of 56,517 and was elected on the 27th count.
PL’s Louis Grech, Edward Scicluna and John Attard Montaldo were elected on the 29th count. Joseph Cuschieri will have observer status until the Lisbon Treaty is implemented.
The news of Dr Attard Montalto’s comeback came as a surprise to many, but it began to look very possible in the morning, when first the votes of Sharon Ellul Bonici and later those of Claudette Abela Baldacchino were redistributed.
John Attard Montalto’s seat began to appear a reality as he inherited 9,636 from Claudette Abela Baldacchino’s votes yesterday afternoon. The most likely factor behind his remarkable turnaround could be attributed to the fact that his name was the next on the list behind Ms Abela Baldacchino, meaning that those who voted in a simple run-on fashion (1,2,3,4 etc.) would have had him as their second favourite preference.
After his sudden leapfrog over Ms Mizzi and Mr Cuschieri, Dr Attard Montalto was asked whether his name order on the ballot had anything to do with it. In typical style, he threw his head back and let out a hearty laugh, saying that if that was the case, he would not have bothered campaigning at all.
PL deputy leader Toni Abela was also quizzed on the matter and said that while he recognised that some people might be feeling let down, it is the way that the current system works and reflects the will of the voting public.
On Sunday, it seemed like the PN was more likely to win Malta’s sixth seat in the European parliament, but vote redistribution on Monday afternoon changed things, and yesterday the Labour Party confirmed it had secured the sixth seat (if we eventually get it). In fact, if there was one thing that characterised day three of the counting process, it was the way the situation continued to change radically at the elimination of almost each of the candidates.
PL party agents had been celebrating the party’s victory and singing “Viva l- Labour, Viva l- Labour,” in the counting hall corridors since the 4-2 result became apparent all through the afternoon.
Although fellow candidate Marlene Mizzi was initially seen as the most likely to be Labour’s fourth MEP, vote redistribution ended up favouring Dr Attard Montalto.
By the 25th count, the fight for the third seat was between Joseph Cuschieri and Marlene Mizzi who had 23,731 and 21,394 respectively.
In the subsequent count, hopes dwindled further for Ms Mizzi as the balance tipped in favour of Dr Attard Montalto. By the 27th count, it was her votes which were being redistributed.
This left Joseph Cuschieri and John Attard Montalto to fight it out for the PL’s third and fourth seats. Ironically, Mr Cuschieri, who had given up his parliamentary seat for PL leader Joseph Muscat, might have to wait till he secures his own in Brussels, pending the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. Just before Mrs Mizzi’s elimination, Louis Grech had 33,887 votes, Edward Scicluna had 29,949, John Attard Montalto, 27,008, Joseph Cuschieri 26,205 and Marlene Mizzi, 23,047.
PN’s Simon Busuttil is the only candidate to be elected with quota on the first count with a record 68,782 first count votes.
Vote redistribution from AD Arnold Cassola’s elimination showed that while 4,325 of his votes went to the PN and the PL (2,087 and 2,238 respectively), 3,190 of his votes were non-transferable.
The PN’s David Casa and Roberta Metsola Tedesco Triccas fared best with 804 and 801 votes respectively from Prof. Cassola’s elimination. Labour’s Edward Scicluna got 757 votes, while Louis Grech and Marlene Mizzi got 486 and 466 respectively.
As a considerable number of voters who went for AD as first preference went on to vote for the major parties, atmosphere at the counting hall was somewhat heavier. PL and PN party agents once again took their places behind the perspex and resorted to candidate name calling to make sure the ballot was placed in the right box and perspex banging when they were in doubt. But by about 4pm, the PN agents began to leave the complex to return to their normal lives after three days of instant coffee, reheated junk food and neon lights when it became clear that the fourth seat had been secured by the PL. The counting process was completed after three days of counting, with only Estonia saving us from finishing last out of the EU 27 when they called for a recount.
On the final 29th count issued at 10.30pm, PL’s Louis Grech had 40,529 votes, Edward Scicluna 39,250, John Attard Montalto 30,129 and Joseph Cuschieri 29,375.
The Malta Independent will carry a more detailed analysis in tomorrow’s edition