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Malta Votes In Divorce Referendum

The people of Malta are voting in a landmark referendum on whether or not to introduce divorce proceedings into its legal system.

The Mediterranean island of 400,000 people is the only country in Europe that does not allow the practice, though it does recognize divorces granted abroad.

Opinion polls suggest the result could go either way, with 40 percent of the electorate still undecided.

The island's political parties hve kept out of direct campaigning in the referendum, telling their followers to vote according to their consciences.

According to "The Times of Malta," the question on the referendum, printed in Maltese and English, is: "Do you agree with the introduction of the choice of divorce in the case of a married couple who has been separated or has been living apart for at least four years and where there is no reasonable hope for reconciliation between the spouses, while at the same time ensuring that adequate maintenance is guaranteed and the welfare of the children is safeguarded?"

Ballots from the roughly 325,000 eligible voters are expected to be tallied and the results announced on May 29.

Malta, which gained independence in 1964, joined the European Union in 2004.

compiled from agency reports