Malta’s ruling Labour Party gave its “unanimous support” to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Sunday despite growing pressure on the government over the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The Labour Party released a statement announcing its “full confidence in the Prime Minister” following an emergency meeting of MPs at Muscat’s countryside residence.
Muscat is under intense pressure after an investigation into the murder of Caruana Galizia revealed close connections between suspects in the case and his top team. Caruana Galizia died after a car bomb detonated outside her home in October 2017.
Last week Muscat’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and the government ministers for tourism and the economy stepped down.
A businessman, Yorgen Fenech, was charged Saturday night with involvement in the murder.
The Times of Malta reported Sunday that the Labour Party will start the process to elect a new leader on January 8, with Muscat expected to continue at the helm until then.
The party’s statement said a debate on the murder would be held in parliament next week. It also said that Chris Cardona, the economy minister, had been reinstated in the Cabinet. He stepped down after being questioned by police but has denied any involvement in the murder.
Caruana Galizia, a prominent journalist and blogger, investigated corruption in the highest echelons of Maltese government and society.
Fenech, a businessman who was identified by Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) as being the owner of a Dubai-registered company that Caruana Galizia had written about, was charged Saturday with participating in a criminal organization, complicity in causing an explosion, and complicity in the murder, according to the Guardian.
Following the development, the journalist’s family said in a statement: “We now expect the prime minister to leave office, and parliament, with immediate effect to allow a free and full investigation into his and Keith Schembri’s role in Daphne’s assassination.”
Opposition MEPs reacted angrily to Sunday’s decision that Muscat would remain in office.
“We will not take this lying down. We will not let the PM cling to power to continue to obstruct justice,” tweeted David Casa, an MEP from the opposition Nationalist Party who previously wrote to the European Commission, urging it to take steps “immediately” to restore the rule of law in Malta.
“They really think they are not accountable to anyone,” tweeted Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola.