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Joseph Muscat: 'I've paid highest political price for a dark episode'

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Joseph Muscat: 'I've paid highest political price for a dark episode'
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Image Rene Rossignaud www.rossignaud.com - XRM
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Malta's outgoing prime minister Joseph Muscat bid farewell by claiming he'd paid "the highest political price for a dark episode".

He will be succeeded by lawyer Robert Abela, who was elected for the first time by Labour party voters in the country. Abela will lead until September 2022.

Muscat announced his resignation last month after criticism over his government's alleged ties to the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The outgoing leader admitted he was "hurt" by Caruana Galizia's work when she was alive but that he "did not suffer as much as her family did" when a bomb blew up her car, killing her in 2017.

He added that he was "sorry for what happened". He said he was proud that under his tenure people had been arrested and charged with the killing.

"My message for the future of this political party is: 'Don't let those who want division win over unity. Don't let those who want sadness win over joy in our country," Muscat said.

Two lawmakers — Robert Abela and deputy prime minister Chris Fearne — were the candidates vying to replace Muscat. Both have vowed to uphold the rule of law in Malta.

The European Parliament's mission to examine the state of the rule of law in Malta announced its results earlier in the week saying there was a worrying lack of progress in investigations into persons of interest around Caruana Galizia's murder.

There were also concerns over the country's police and judicial system.

It is not yet clear if Muscat's resignation will quell anti-government protests in the country. Demonstrations continued last month despite the political leader announcing that he would step down.

The investigation into the journalist's death is still ongoing. Three men have been charged with murder for allegedly triggering the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia.

Keith Schembri, Muscat's chief of staff, was arrested and questioned last month regarding the killing but has since been released. He still remains under investigation.

On November 30th, a day before Muscat said he would resign, a prominent Maltese businessman, Yorgen Fenech, was detained on charges including complicity in the murder.

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

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