Malta’s new PM promises to stengthen rule of law amid political and legal crisis

Europe

13 January 2020, 12:20

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A new Prime Minister of Malta is set to be sworn in today, as Joseph Muscat leaves the post following a fall from grace in the wake of the murder of an investigative journalist in 2017.

Robert Abela, 42, will take over after he was elected leader of the Labour party on Saturday.

He has promised to strengthen the rule of law in the country, following the political and legal crisis caused by the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the subsequent investigation.

Caruana Galizia had alleged corruption within the Maltese government.

A European Union parliamentary mission to examine the rule of law in Malta presented concerns over the country’s police and judicial system, adding there was a lack of progress in investigating people of interest in connection with the murder.

Muscat, 45, is set to resign on Monday, after being forced out by accusations he interfered in the investigation into the killing of Caruana Galizia.

His government had been under increasing pressure not only from the EU delegation, but also from daily protests by demonstrators who accuse him among other things of shielding his chief of staff and childhood friend Keith Schembri, who has been implicated in the murder.

Schembri was arrested and questioned last month, but was released. He remains under investigation.

Three men have been charged with murder for allegedly triggering the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017.

A prominent Maltese businessman, Yorgen Fenech, has also been detained on charges including complicity in the murder.

A hearing is expected later this month to determine whether Fenech should stand trial.

“I am determined to keep what is good and change what is bad,” Abela told supporters at a victory rally on Saturday.

“I promise to work with this parliament to continue to strengthen the rule of law and good governance.

“The ship is now back on an even keel after the storm. We need to move forward,” he said.

Abela made no reference to the murder of Caruana Galizia killing in the run-up to the election.

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