Malta Gets New Prime Minister as Muscat Quits over Journalist Daphne Galizia’s Murder
Malta’s Prime Minister of six years has stepped down in the wake of criticism he had been hampering the investigation to protect close friends.
Robert Abela has become the new Prime Minister of Malta after Joseph Muscat’s resignation over protests for the inconclusive investigation of the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia back in 2017.
45-year-old Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister since 2013 and leader of Malta’s Labor Party since 2008, has been accused by critics of hindering the probe into Galizia’s brutal murder in order to shield friends and allies.
Robert Abela, a 42-year-old lawyer, was elected on Sunday as the new leader of Malta’s ruling Labor Party, meaning he automatically assumes the position of the country’s Prime Minister.
Neither Abela, nor his rival, 56-year-old Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne, even mentioned journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination in the run-up to the party leadership election, AFP and France24 report.
Both insisted they stood for continuity with respect to Muscat’s rule seemingly referring to the positive economic performance of Malta, the smallest EU member state.
Investigative journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, who exposed top-level government corruption and was even dubbed the “one-woman WikiLeaks”, was assassinated with a car bomb explosion on October 16, 2017.
“There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate,” she wrote on her blog less than an hour before she was murdered.
Joseph Muscat announced in December 2019 that he was going to resign as anger had been piling up over his alleged efforts to hamper the investigation into Galizia’s assassination.
On Friday, he released an emotional farewell address declaring he was “sorry” about the murder of the investigative journalist.
“I paid the highest price for this case to be solved under my watch,” Muscat said.
The opposition Nationalist Party slammed Muscat’s speech as “surreal”, pointing out that it had been Daphne Caruana Galiza who had paid that price.
In the Labor Party election run-up, Abela did not criticize Muscat, leading critics to voice pessimism with respect to the change at Malta’s helm.
Muscat’s downfall was precipitated by daily protests of supporters of the Caruana Galizia family.
They accuse Malta’s already former Prime Minister, among other things, of shielding his chief of staff and childhood friend Keith Schembri, who has been implicated in the murder.
Malta’s booming economic and Muscat’s popularity large due to that precluded his resignation before the leadership election of the Maltese Labor Party.
Three men are on trial for allegedly detonating the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.
A fourth man, powerful businessman Jorgen Fenech, has been charged as an accomplice after in November 2019, he was detained as he tried to leave Malta on his yacht.
Fenech’s arrest sparked Schembri’s resignation as well as the resignation of tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, who formerly served as energy minister.
(Banner image: Joseph Muscat on Twitter)