Election 2008

– minute for minute

SATURDAY – 8 March

17:51 – Party leaders from all four political parties cast their vote on a quiet voting day where no incidents were reported, and a sense of business as usual prevailed in most Maltese towns and villages. The tension was however perceptible for among political activists of all political parties. With over 5,000 voting documents uncollected, party officials were trying very hard to keep calm. The first unconfirmed news was the arrest of two officials from MTA and MEPA over the Mistra saga, released on Maltastar.com but there was no independent confirmation.

18:26 – Rumours that hunters have deposited over 1,000 voting documents at the Nationalist HQ prove to be untrue after MaltaToday talks to PN officials.

20:09 – Voting time is extended to 2300hrs. It is believed at first that it’s the Nationalists who have demanded an extension to the voting time.

21:58 – The International Herald Tribune quotes MT journalist and survey coordinator James Debono - “Some people say: ‘Well, there is the problem of the same government, but is the opposition better?’ Labour is more convincing on the count of corruption, while on issues like job creation, health care the Nationalist Party is more convincing.”

22:08 – Unibet’s Lennart Ehlinger tells MaltaToday: “This is the first time we’re taking bets on an election in Malta. Of course, we’ve been offering bets on elections in other countries for a long time now – be it in the US or in different parts of Europe. So far, we’re pleasantly surprised with the turnout. It was well received in Malta and this is probably due to the fact that the Maltese are well informed on political affairs. The way it works is not very different from sports.”

SUNDAY – 9 March

02:00 – Exit polls carried out by MT in the 10th district reveal that Robert Arrigo is the PN’s preferred candidate. But the poll also indicates a surprise showing for John Dalli, who turns out to be third most preferred PN candidate.

02:16 – Turnout was 3% down from 2003. In 2003 the turnout was 96%. In 2003 the EU accession issue was a prime reason for the high turnout. The lowest turnouts were in the first, 9th and 10th districts, and 13th (Gozo) districts. The districts are notably Nationalist strongholds. Local elections were also held yesterday and the turnout here was 86%.

02:25 – Political stations run a long night vigil of the arrival and reconciliation of voting documents, a tedious process which still attracts viewers who stay up the whole night long.

02:30 – If the sorting of votes commences by 10:30, the political parties will have a clear indication of the final result around midday.

03:15 – The PN removed most of its billboards during the night and early morning of 9 March.

03:20 – Economist Prof Edward Scicluna, who served as MSCED chairman during a Nationalist administration but later fell out of favour, tells One News that the fall in the voter turnout would mean thousands of lost votes for the PN.

10:26 – A tense wait and see. But Labour insiders told MT that they expect an 8,000 majority. Sorting is still under way and counting is expected in 45 minutes’ time. A clear indication is expected at midday.

11:19 – Labour supporters carcade in Birkirkara and other localities.

12:15 – Owen Bonnici, a Labour candidate, tells MaltaToday that his wife had given birth to a girl on election day, but still visited the polling booth to vote.

12:18 – Nationalist MP John Dalli tells MT the election is a touch and go affair and one must wait and see.12:39 – Sorting starts, tension runs high.

12:40 – Angelo Xuereb of Azzjoni Nazzjonali tells MT, “our message reached the people, so much so that the parties view us as a threat.”

12:44 – Jason Micallef tells MT that the Labour has strong majority

13:09 – No news from counting hall, other than the large number of first-count votes for party leaders Lawrence Gonzi and Alfred Sant.

13:16 – Austin Gatt and Mario De Marco appear as frontrunners for the PN in the 1st district.

13:21 – Party officials on 2nd district careful about dubious votes - tension runs high.

13:34 – Labour is waiting for the final sample of 75,000 votes, as they expect a victory, with a swing in Gozo and a four-candidate majority on the 2nd district. Helena Dalli leads in the 3rd district for Labour and Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici for the PN.

13:41 – Labour officials are more cautious, stating that the result will be very close.

13:49 – Emanuel Micallef says on PBS that one of Gonzi’s biggest faults was his failure to have a Cabinet reshuffle and then promise a new young Cabinet when in government.

13:52 - PN officials tell MT that the tide is turning to their favour.

14:14 – PN officials tell MT the difference between the two parties stands at 1% so they are still hopeful that the PN could turn the tide.

14:27 – Both MLP and PN officials tell MT the election will be a cliffhanger.

14:30 - First records from 10th district confirm exit poll trend issued by MT on Sunday morning, which registered in order of preference, first place for Nationalist candidates Robert Arrigo (15.9%), George Pullicino (13.5), John Dalli (11.1), Francis Zammit Dimech (8.9), Michael Frendo (8.2); MLP frontrunners: Michael Falzon (11.6), Evarist Bartolo (5.3); AD: Harry Vassallo (3.4)

14:31 – Parties start registering prudence in the comments of party officials. Buoyancy in the Labour camp dips. NET TV pundits sound more positive as they warn caution.

14:36 – Initial sampling for AD puts the Greens at a disappointing 1.5%, with Arnold Cassola on the 9th district at 3%, Victor Galea on the 13th district with 1.8%. No sampling exists for Harry Vassallo on the 10th district.

14:41 – In a terse statement to the press Labour deputy leader Michael Falzon says the result is still unclear and as far as voting goes, undecided.

14:50 – The mood in the streets has changed with Labour carcades coming to an abrupt end.

14:52 – AN officials tell MT they are disappointed with their first count votes. AN president Charles Attard says “many people promised their second preference vote. However the first counts do not reflect this.” Paul Salomone: “We were not expecting to win and neither a 50-50 situation. We are being realistic. Our party was born five months ago.”

15:03 – PN officials say they have a 4,000 majority; Labour refuse to concede and insist it is too close to call and PN speculation is still within margin of error.

15:13 - PN officials tell MT that it is more like a 1,500 majority. Tension runs high at Naxxar counting hall, PN tells activists to gather at Stamperija.

15:14 – Labour deputy leader Michael Falzon emerges into the counting hall to meet Labour counting agents, but gives no inkling of a clear result, urging “prudence on all sides”, and that sampling results from the PN side are “what they are: sampling”.

15:24 – PN information secretary Gordon Pisani urges prudence: samples from the 519 ballot boxes are still being analysed and extrapolated.

15:57 – PN pundits and sources exude confidence, with high sources confirming victory for the PN with MaltaToday, and the banter on NET TV typical of a victory yet to be announced.

15:40 – Labour officials tell MT they are waiting for the PN to declare victory for them to concede defeat.

16:14 – Lawrence Gonzi is expected to visit the counting hall at 17:00h.

17:16 – No sign of Lawrence Gonzi but celebrations begin inside the Naxxar counting hall, with PN counting agents banging on the perspex and shouting “Gonzi, Gonzi”.

17:18 – PN wins, TVM declares, as jubilation reigns at Naxxar counting halls, minutes before Labour deputy leader Charles Mangion talks of a “photo-finish”.

17:23 – Labour’s other deputy leader Michael Falzon still cautions against any “irresponsible” declarations of victory.

17:46 – PN secretary-general Joe Saliba says the election is too close to call, saying it would be irresponsible to declare victory at this point. Saliba announces it’s not right to say that any party had won the election and that the result would be clear within three hours, and asks party supporters not to celebrate in the streets. He said the parties would have to wait until all the first count votes were counted.

18:00 – AD votes for Cassola and Vassallo are estimated to be around 2.5% to 3%.

18:28 – The difference between the two parties stands at 1,000. The MLP has a majority of seats. The difference between the two parties is 0.5% and it appears that none of the parties have attained 50% plus one of the votes.

19:00 – Labour register a swing of 1,000 votes on the 13th district in Gozo, which sends waves of discontent among PN counting agents. The view is that the difference between the two parties stands at less than 800 votes.

19:41 – Labour sources from Naxxar say they are trailing by 750 to 1,000 votes. They say they cannot imagine a recovery with the number of first-count votes that have still not been counted.

19:45 – Vindicating MT exit polls on the 10th district, Robert Arrigo leads as the most preferred candidate and a surprise vote emerges for district newcomer John Dalli.

20:35 – Labour deputy leader Michael Falzon says clear results will become apparent by 21:30 but does not exclude calling for a recount.

20:54 – Speaking to journalists, PN deputy leader Tonio Borg urged caution. None of the parties will make an official declaration before the first count ends and the votes are counted. He said this urge for caution was also a sign of responsibility when the result is so close. In Italy, in Austriaand in in Germany there have been close results recently as well, the deputy PN leader said.

21:25 – PN win election 2008 by slimmest of margins. Joe Saliba announces that the PN won the election by 1,200 votes.

21:31 – The PN has won by a relative majority and will have one more seat than the MLP, which in fact won a majority of seats. It’s the first party ever in Malta to win three elections in a row.

22:28 – Labour secretary-general Jason Micallef issues a statement saying the parties were still neck and neck and that the MLP would wait for the official first-count votes before issuing a statement on the elections results. Micallef says Labour’s unofficial results are not the same as those announced by the PN, and will be waiting for the official result announced by the Electoral Commission.




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