Labour returns to power in Malta after 15 years

Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat (centre) at the count in Naxxar, near Valletta, 10 March Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat is 39

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Malta's Labour party is returning to power after 15 years in opposition, with a projected win of 55% of the vote in the eurozone state's election.

Party leader Joseph Muscat claimed a "landslide victory" for his party, with the outgoing Nationalist Party expected to take 43% of the ballots.

Unlike other eurozone states, Malta has prospered in recent years, and the economy did not dominate the campaign.

The Nationalists fell in December after losing their one-seat majority.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had been in office for just under a decade.

Mr Muscat, 39, made change the big theme of his campaign.

His main electoral pledge was to reduce electricity prices - believed to be among the highest in the world - by 25%.

He also promised to do more to tackle corruption.

Economic success

"I wasn't expecting such a landslide victory for Labour," he said after the count in Naxxar, outside the capital Valletta.

"We must all remain calm, tomorrow is another day."

Conceding defeat, Mr Gonzi said he took full responsibility for the Nationalists' poor result and would not seek re-election as party leader.

"The Nationalist Party needs to begin a reform process and at the same remain rooted in its values," he said.

Malta, with a population of more than 400,000, is the smallest and one of the most successful economies in the eurozone.

With its strong tourism and financial services sector, the archipelago has relatively low unemployment, a good growth rate and low government debt.

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