The Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, said he would step down in January amid civil unrest over the unresolved murder of a journalist in 2017. Daphne Caruana Galizia was an investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist who was killed by a car bomb. Galizia exposed corruption at the highest levels of Malta’s government, and Muscat’s former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, has been implicated in her murder. Schembri was the subject of some of Galizia’s investigative journalism, and he was arrested during the investigation before being released. Three people were arrested in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, but new information has surfaced that links another individual as the principle architect behind it. Galizia’s family believes the government, including Muscat, conspired to silence her, and they have called for his immediate removal from office and threatened legal action to prevent government intervention in the police forces investigating her murder. Maltese citizens have staged protests against the government’s handling of the case, and Muscat’s resignation announcement came in the aftermath of a large-scale demonstration in the capital city of Valletta. Malta is the European Union’s smallest member, and a delegation from Brussels is scheduled to travel to the country in the coming days to evaluate the legitimacy of Malta’s rule of law.
Muscat’s departure from office will give the ruling Labor Party an opportunity to replace him, and their strong parliamentary majority means it is unlikely that a general election will be called. As recently as this summer, Labor MP’s in Malta unanimously backed Muscat and expressed their support for his continued leadership of the country. Muscat is hoping that his resignation will appease protestors who continue to call for justice for Ms. Galizia.