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Maltese hold national vote with opposition challenging center-right's 15-year hold on power

Maltese head to the polls Saturday to decide whether to grant the center-right Nationalist Party a fourth straight term or give the opposition a shot at government after 15 years.

The ruling Nationalist Party has campaigned on its strong employment record, with Malta boasting Europe's lowest unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, 59, also has promised more education and health spending and lower income taxes.

The opposition Labor Party, led by Joseph Muscat, 39, has pledged to reduce water and electricity rates, a major bone of contention in the past legislature, along with greater civil liberties, less bureaucracy and action to fight corruption.

Some 330,000 Maltese are eligible to vote between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Results are expected Sunday afternoon.

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