Bangkok Post

Muscat wins despite graft allegation­s

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VALLETTA: Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat swept back into power on Sunday after voters shrugged off corruption allegation­s against a Labour Party government which has presided over a booming economy.

With counting almost completed after Saturday’s early vote, Mr Muscat, 43, was on track to claim nearly 55% of the votes on 92% turnout. That will give him a majority of up to nine seats in the island nation’s 71-seat parliament.

Mr Muscat, who was to be sworn in as premier after press time last night, said the vote confirmed the trust voters had first placed in him in 2013 “despite one of the most negative electoral campaigns in the country’s history”.

“Those who thought the people would choose negativity do not know the people of Malta and Gozo,” he said.

“The people choose positivity, optimism, energy, good will, unity and equality,” he said, urging the country to unite after the divisive campaign.

Simon Busuttil, leader of the opposition Nationalis­t Party (PN), called Mr Muscat to concede defeat. “As always, we respect the decision of the electorate,” he said.

The victory means there will be no major disruption to the business of the European Union, whose rotating presidency Malta holds until the end of this month.

It was the first time since Malta became independen­t from Britain in 1964 that Labour, now located in the mainstream of European social democracy, has won backto-back elections.

Mr Muscat, who has been premier since 2013, went to the polls a year early after his wife was implicated in one of a series of alleged corruption cases.

All of them arose from informatio­n contained in the Panama Papers, a massive data leak from the Mossack Fonseca law firm that specialise­s in establishi­ng secretive offshore companies and bank accounts for wealthy individual­s from across the globe.

Mr Muscat denies any wrongdoing and has promised to quit if any evidence emerges of his family having secret accounts used to bank kickbacks.

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