Robert Abela elected as Malta’s new PM

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Labour party leader candidates Chris Fearne (L) and Robert Abela (R) wave to delegates prior to Malta’s outgoing Prime Minister and outgoing Labour party leader deliver his final speech as PM on January 10, 2020 in Paola, Malta | Matthew Mirabelli/AFP via Getty Images

He replaces Joseph Muscat, who announced he would step down last month.

Malta’s Labour Party has elected Robert Abela as its new leader and prime minister to replace Joseph Muscat.

Muscat announced in December he would step down amid growing pressure over the government’s handling of the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bombing in 2017.

Abela was elected by Labour Party members in the night from Saturday to Sunday, beating his opponent Chris Fearne with 57.9 percent of the vote.

Fearne, who serves as Malta’s health minister, had been the favorite to win. The 42-year-old Abela, a lawyer, was only elected as a lawmaker less than three years ago and hasn’t yet held a cabinet post.

Muscat congratulated his successor on Twitter, saying he would hand over the premiership on Monday.

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