Malta votes yes to legalising divorce

Malta has voted yes in a non-binding referendum on legalising divorce, the country’s prime minister, Lawrence Gonzi, has confirmed.

Almost three-quarters of the electorate voted on Saturday on whether divorce should be introduced in Malta. A majority Catholic country, Malta is the only European Union country not to allow divorce.

Figures from the electoral commission late on Saturday showed that turnout was 72%, according to the Times of Malta.

“Even though the result is not what I wished for, now it is our duty to see that the will of the majority is respected,” Gonzi said in a televised speech on Sunday.

Gonzi, who campaigned against the introduction of divorce, said it was now up Parliament to enact a law legalising the dissolution of marriage on the island. The influential Catholic church supported a no vote during the campaign.

The leader of the yes movement, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, of the governing Nationalist party, said the result was significant.

“It brings Malta into a new era where the state and the church are separate,” he told the EFE news agency.

Chile was the last country to legalise divorce in 2004 after overwhelming public pressure. Maltese voters were asked whether parliament should introduce a new law that would allow couples to obtain a divorce after four years of separation.

Previously, couples could apply for a legal separation through the courts, or seek a church annulment—a complex process that can take up to nine years. A third option was to get divorced abroad, which would be recognised as valid in Malta.—

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