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Malta gets new prime minister amid crisis over journalist’s murder

Monday, 13 January, 2020 - 18:24

The lawyer Robert Abela, elected this weekend leader of the Labour Party of Malta, will become the country’s new prime minister on Monday, replacing Joseph Muscat, who resigned after his chief of staff was accused of being involved in the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Abela beat the favourite, Chris Fearne, with 57.9 percent of the votes of the party members. Speaking to the press after the results came in, Abela thanked Chris Fearne and saying that he hoped the two men could work together “for the good of the party and the country.”

“Today there is only one winner,” he added “the Labour Party.” 

Muscat said on Twitter that he was very proud to hand over the premiership to Abela, who was seen as the continuity candidate, as opposed to Fearne who had promised to implement significant reforms.

A 42-year-old business lawyer and parliamentarian since 2017 Abela is the son of George Abela, another Labour leader and who served as Maltese Prime Minister from 2009 to 2014, when he was replaced by Muscat. 

Muscat announced his resignation on December 1, after his chief of staff and close friend, Keith Schembri, was accused of being complicit in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, who was investigating political corruption in Malta.

Muscat remained in office until Sunday, waiting for his successor to be elected as leader of the Labour Party and prime minister, something that had elicited harsh criticism from the opposition and from Brussels. 

The case came to a head when the businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested while trying to leave the country aboard his yacht, and he was formally accused of being the one who devised the murder of the investigative journalist. The magnate, who is being held in preventative detention, has accused Muscat’s chief of staff, Schembri, of having planned the murder.

Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bombing near her home in October 2017. Three men, all with criminal records, have been arrested for detonating the device.



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