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January 13, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 8:48am

Maltese PM steps down amid public pressure over murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

By PA Mediapoint and Press Gazette

Malta has chosen a new Prime Minister after Joseph Muscat stepped down amid public protests calling for the truth about the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia more than two years ago.

More than half (58 per cent) of the members of Malta’s ruling Labour Party who were eligible to vote elected Robert Abela as the Mediterranean island’s new leader yesterday.

Muscat has left midway through his second term in office amid demands for accountability over the killing of anti-corruption journalist Caruana Galizia in a car bomb attack near her home in October 2017.

His departure follows efforts by the Caruana Galizia family and press freedom groups such as Reporters Without Borders to bring her killers, and the masterminds behind the attack, to justice.

An independent inquiry into the killing launched in September last year.

A close aide to Muscat was questioned in connection with Caruana Galizia’s killing, denied wrongdoing and was released while still under investigation.

A Maltese hotelier, who denies involvement, has been accused of complicity in the killing. Three other men, accused of triggering the car bomb, are under arrest.

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In his victory speech on Sunday night, Abela did not assess Muscat’s beleaguered final stretch in office, but did pledge before the party vote to help repair Malta’s reputation.

A re-occurring word in the 42-year-old’s victory speech, delivered after embracing and shaking hands with some of the hundreds of supporters packed into a sports arena, was “continuity”.

Muscat earlier tweeted his congratulations, saying: “Proud to be handing over to him #Malta PM office on Monday.” Abela was sworn in today.

Before being chosen as Labour leader, Abela said he would work to restore Malta’s reputation for rule of law. European Union politicians had criticised the member nation’s judiciary and police.

Muscat had beaten Abela’s father in the race for the party leadership in 2008. George Abela was later appointed president, serving from 2009 until 2014.

Malta’s new Prime Minister told his supporters that he will press on with an agenda focused on “unity, equality, social mobility and justice”.

Picture: AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud

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