Malta’s next premier vows ‘con­ti­nu­ity’ amid car bomb fall­out

Antelope Valley Press - - BUSINESS -

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — A first-term law­maker whose father was Malta’s pres­i­dent was cho­sen to be the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter, re­plac­ing Joseph Mus­cat af­ter weeks of protests de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the car bomb slay­ing of an anti-cor­rup­tion jour­nal­ist who tar­geted his gov­ern­ment.

In his vic­tory speech Sun­day night, Robert Abela didn’t as­sess Mus­cat’s be­lea­guered fi­nal stretch in of­fice. Abela also didn’t cite the 2017 as­sas­si­na­tion of Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia, a shock­ing killing which deeply wounded much of Malta’s psy­che.

Crit­i­cism had poured in from abroad about in­ad­e­qua­cies in the Euro­pean Union coun­try’s ju­di­cial and po­lice sys­tems, and do­mes­tic crit­ics ex­pressed out­rage that mem­bers of Mus­cat’s in­ner cir­cle had been linked to the still on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion to find out who or­dered the as­sas­si­na­tion.

Still, Abela al­luded to the na­tional trauma trig­gered by the slay­ing in the is­land na­tion, say­ing that now “the ship has been stead­ied.”

The count on Sun­day showed Abela re­ceived nearly 58% of votes cast Satur­day by mem­bers of the gov­ern­ing Labour Party el­i­gi­ble to choose the new leader.

But al­though many Mal­tese had pushed for Mus­cat’s res­ig­na­tion in frus­tra­tion over the han­dling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the change in lead­er­ship might not bring much pol­icy change.

Abela, a 42-year-old spe­cial­ist in la­bor and in­dus­trial law, did pledge be­fore the party vote to help re­pair Malta’s rep­u­ta­tion. But he is also widely con­sid­ered a Mus­cat pro­tege.

The Labour Party, which com­mands a com­fort­able par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity, ap­peared to choose a leader who would fol­low much in Mus­cat’s path.

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

Still, for op­po­si­tion politi­cians, see­ing Mus­cat re­sign be­cause of pub­lic out­rage gave some mea­sure of sat­is­fac­tion.

Mus­cat “comes tum­bling down — forced out of of­fice in dis­grace — de­feated by the woman whose voice even her as­sas­si­na­tion could not si­lence,’’ tweeted Roberta Met­sola dur­ing the week­end vot­ing. She is a Na­tion­al­ist Party politi­cian who serves in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

Step­ping down mid­way though his sec­ond term as premier, Mus­cat ear­lier tweeted his con­grat­u­la­tions, say­ing, “Proud to be hand­ing over to him #Malta PM of­fice on Mon­day,” when Abela will be sworn in.

Abela has said he would work to re­store Malta’s rep­u­ta­tion for rule of law. Con­cerned EU law­mak­ers, af­ter a fact-find­ing mis­sion to the is­land, had crit­i­cized the mem­ber na­tion’s ju­di­ciary and po­lice.


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