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Malta's new PM promises to strengthen rule of law amid political and legal crisis

Robert Abela takes over from Joseph Muscat as prime minister of Malta
Robert Abela takes over from Joseph Muscat as prime minister of Malta Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Euronews with AFP
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Robert Abela takes over from Joseph Muscat as Malta's PM, amid outrage over the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.


A new Prime Minister of Malta was sworn in on Monday, as Joseph Muscat was replaced following a fall from grace in the wake of the murder of an investigative journalist in 2017.

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

Abela, whose father was Malta's president, was only elected as a lawmaker in 2017, and had never held a cabinet position.

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, was ultimately forced out by weeks of protest over 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.

More: Malta PM defends actions as opposition quits parliament

More: Caruana Galizia's family slams independence of inquiry into her murder

Promise to strengthen the rule of law

"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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