Polls open in Maltese election

March 9, 2013 at 10:34 AM

VALLETTA, Malta, March 9 (UPI) -- Maltese voters headed to the polls Saturday for a general election that may result in the first change in government for the Mediterranean country in 15 years.

The ruling Nationalist Party, which has been in power in Malta for 24 of the past 26 years, has trailed in opinion polls despite the party's strong economic performance amid the overall financial crisis in Europe, the BBC reported.

The election was called in December, when Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi lost his one-vote majority after a dissenting Parliament member voted against a budget bill.

Gonzi, who is seeking re-election, has urged voters to take into account his management of Malta's economy.

His main rival, Joseph Muscat of the Labor Party, has pledged to reduce Malta's electricity prices -- said to be among the highest in the world -- by 25 percent.

More than 90 percent of Malta's eligible voters were expected to vote Saturday, the BBC said.

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