VALLETTA, Malta — A primary-term lawmaker whose father was Malta’s president has been chosen to be the nation’s new prime minister, changing a frontrunner who’s stepping down amid calls for for accountability over the 2017 homicide of an anticorruption journalist.
The departing prime minister, Joseph Muscat, 42, mentioned on Twitter on Sunday that he would formally resign as prime minister on Monday, leaving the position halfway by his second time period.
Eligible members of the governing Labour Party voted this weekend to decide on a brand new prime minister, and a rely on Sunday confirmed that the first-term lawmaker, Robert Abela, had obtained practically 58 % of ballots solid.
“I am humbled” he instructed supporters. “There is only one winner today, the Labour Party.”
He was scheduled to deal with the occasion on Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Muscat announced last month that he would step down as prime minister and party leader, amid accusations that he had protected associates linked to people suspected of involvement in the 2017 killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist, in a car bombing.
Ms. Caruana Galizia, 53, had exposed Malta’s links to offshore tax havens using the leaked Panama Papers.
A close aide to Mr. Muscat was questioned in connection with the killing, denied wrongdoing and was released while under investigation. A Maltese hotelier, who denies involvement, has been accused of complicity in the killing. Three other men accused of setting off the car bomb are also under arrest.
Malta, a member of the European Union, had been criticized by lawmakers in the bloc over the nation’s judiciary and police.
Mr. Abela, before being chosen as Labour’s new leader, said he would work to restore the country’s reputation for rule of law. He avoided interviews with the independent news media during the campaign, however.
A 42-year-old a lawyer specializing in industrial and labor law, Mr. Abela was elected to Parliament just over two years ago. Mr. Muscat appointed him a consultant, enabling him to attend cabinet meetings.
In this weekend’s vote, involving about 17,500 party members, he defeated Chris Fearne, the deputy prime minister and minister of health, who had been the favorite.
Mr. Abela has said that he will increase the government’s focus on social issues and affordable housing. He also promised to give free medicines to all pensioners within five years.
His father, George Abela, was the Labor Party’s deputy leader until 1998. Although he lost to Mr. Muscat in a contest to become party leader in 2008, the elder Mr. Abela went on to become the country’s president the following year and served in the role until 2014.
Mr. Muscat has said that he will stay on in Parliament and promote civil rights reform. He has also said that he intends to work on a project to raise the level of Malta’s athletes.
Reuters contributed reporting.