Maltese PM Joseph Muscat to resign amid protests over journalist's murder

1 December 2019, 20:11 | Updated: 2 December 2019, 08:34

Malta's prime minister has said he will resign next month following protests over a 2017 car bombing that killed a prominent anti-corruption journalist.

In a televised address, Joseph Muscat said he had informed the country's president, George Vella, he will quit as leader of the governing Labour Party on 12 January and then step down as PM in the days that follow.

Mr Muscat said he would ask his party to begin a process next month to choose a new leader.

But some of his critics have said he should go immediately.

Hours earlier on Sunday, thousands of Maltese had protested in the streets of the capital, Valletta, to demand his resignation.

He has been under pressure to quit over his former top aide's alleged links to the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Ms Galizia, 53, had been reporting on widespread corruption in Malta's political and business circles when her car was blown up as she drove home in 2017.

This weekend, one of Malta's wealthiest men, businessman Yorgen Fenech, was charged as an accomplice to the murder. He denies wrongdoing.

The probe triggered the political crisis in the country, with the reporter's family alleging that Fenech has ties to close associates of Mr Muscat.

Mr Muscat said in his televised message: "I will write to the president of the Labour Party so that the process for a new leader is set for 12th January 2020.

"On that day I will resign as leader of the Labour Party. In the days after I will resign as prime minister.

"Our country thus will start a short process of approximately a month for the Labour Party to choose a new leader and a new prime minister."

But opposition leader Adrian Delia said Mr Muscat should quit now.

Mr Delia tweeted: "The @PNmalta (Nationalist Party) will not participate in any activities or events where @JosephMuscat_JM is present. Justice cannot be served with an illegitimate Prime Minister at the helm."

Fenech was charged after the government turned down his request for immunity from prosecution in return for revealing information about the murder plot and alleged corruption involving, among others, Mr Muscat's ex-chief of staff Keith Schembri and ex-tourism minister Konrad Mizzi.

Schembri and Mizzi resigned on Tuesday.

Schembri was interrogated for two days by police before being released without charge. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Mizzi has denied any business links with Fenech and any wrongdoing.