Incumbent premier takes early lead in Malta vote

Supporters of Prime Minister Dom Mintoff's Labour Party were already celebrating winning the island country's most bitterly fought election since Malta gained independence in 1964.

Returns were still incomplete as of this writing Monday, but Mr. Mintoff's party seemed to be maintaining the three-seat parliamentary majority it won in the last election in 1976.

But the pro-Western Nationalist Party said it was too early to say who would win the election and that Labour's claim of victory was premature.

A record 94.6 percent of Malta's 240,000 eligible voters cast ballots Saturday, making the vote count take longer than expected.

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