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May 29, 2011

Preliminary results from a hotly contested referendum on divorce indicate that a majority of Maltese voters are in favor of allowing divorce. It will be the last European country to do make divorce legal.

Skyline of Valletta harbor
Catholic Malta opts for divorce in referendumImage: Fotolia/Annemarie Heine

Predominately Catholic Malta has voted to legalize divorce, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced on Sunday, after ballots were counted following Saturday's non-binding referendum.

Although the final results of the controversial vote were not expected until later on Sunday, the pro-divorce movement declared victory, while Prime Minister Gonzi, who had strongly objected to introducing legal divorce, conceded defeat.

The opposition Labor Party said that around 53 percent of the electorate had voted in favor of divorce.

The outcome is non-binding, but Gonzi said that the will of the people had to be respected and that parliament would enact the appropriate legislation.

The result comes after a vitriolic campaign with both sides - the Catholic church and the pro-divorce movement - accusing the other of disregarding the welfare of the nation.

Malta was one of only two countries in the world – along with the Philippines - to ban divorce.

Saturday's referendum asked the Mediterranean island's roughly 400,000 inhabitants whether parliament should allow divorce after four years of separation. Legal separation is common in Malta, but re-marrying is very difficult.

Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Kyle James

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