Prime Ministerdeclared Sunday after a weekend referendum, voters in the overwhelmingly Catholic Mediterranean state of Malta have voted in favor of legalizing divorce,
“It was now up the Mediterranean archipelago's parliament to legalize the breakup of marriage,” told by Gonzi, who campaigned in opposition to the introduction of divorce in the last European country where it is illegal.
The conservative prime minister told, "This is not the consequence that I longed-for, however the will of the people has to be respected and parliament should enact a law for the introduction of divorce."
Malta is one of only 2 countries in the world -- the Philippines is the other -- that forbids divorce. Chile was the last country to legalize divorce in 2004 after overwhelming public pressure.
Saturday's non-binding referendum asked the island's 306,000 primarily Catholic voters whether parliament should introduce a new law that would permit couples to acquire a divorce after four years of separation.
Legal separation is widespread in the European Union's smallest member state, however there are many legal obstacles to re-marrying.
Lawyer Deborah Schembri, who headed the 'yes' campaign told, "The yes vote has won and we recommend parlamentarians to vote a bill for the introduction of divorce."
Schembri told the yes camp had won around 54 percent of the vote based on a sample from different constituencies, with ballots still being counted and an official result not anticipated until later Sunday,
Arthur Galea Salomone, spokesman for the anti-divorce campaign, admitted "the people's choice was clear, they preferred for the introduction of divorce."
Divorce legislation is likely to squeeze through parliament as Gonzi's ruling Nationalist Party has the slimmest of majorities -- one seat -- and analysts have told at least one of his MPs had backed the yes campaign.
The Roman Catholic Church, which emerges huge over the archipelago where 95 percent of the population declares the faith, did not campaign formally in the referendum. However, Malta's Archbishop Paul Cremona had warned churchgoers in a letter they face an alternative between building and ruining family values.
Marriages can only be revoked by the Catholic Church's Ecclesiastical Tribunal in a intricate and rare process that takes around 8 years.
The only exclusion to the divorce ban is for Maltese married to foreign nationals or Maltese who are permanent residents abroad.