08/03/2003 - Results
53.65% of the Maltese said they were in favour of their country's membership to the European Union whilst 46.35% said they were against during the referendum that was held on 8th March. The participation level was high (91%) in spite of a call for abstention by the opposition led by the head of the Labour Party Alfred Sant.
We should indicate that simultaneous to this referendum local bye-elections were held in 23 communities in which around 40% of the Maltese were to elect their town councillors - this simultaneity certainly discouraged some voters from being tempted to boycott the referendum.
When the results were announced the Labour Party leader contested the validity of the election stating that "the 'yes' did not record an absolute majority of the registered electorate". According to his estimation 142,000 people voted in favour of joining the EU ie less than half of the 297, 000 voters on the electoral role. Alfred Sant called on his supporters to assemble outside of the Labour Party headquarters; five thousand people demonstrated in the streets of the capital La Valette in protest against the result.
The Prime Minister and leader of the Nationalist Party that is in favour of Malta joining the European Union, Eddie Fenech Adami, welcomed the referendum results stressing that "the victory of the "yes" showed the Maltese' strong will to join Europe. It is now our duty to ensure that this will is respected and applied", he added. Around 5,000 Nationalist Party sympathisers went out into the streets to celebrate the "yes" victory. As he had intimated, the Prime Minister, who has been made confident by this victory, should call for early elections, that are to take place before the signing of the membership treaty in Athens on 16th April. Alfred Sant, his Labour adversary has already declared that he will refuse EU membership (and defend a partnership with Brussels) - the central theme of his movement's future electoral campaign.
On behalf of all Europeans the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, "...welcomed the Maltese. This vote is a positive sign for the ratification process of the enlargement of the EU. It is an historical choice that will have an impact on the future of Malta and for future generations. Malta has chosen stability and growth as well as the pacific reunification of the continent and the European people", he declared. Although the Maltese referendum was only consultative, EU membership should finally be validated during the upcoming general elections.
Results of the referendum on membership of the EU on 8th March:
Participation : 91%
Source: Agence France Presse