Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this evening that he has written to the president of the Labour Party instructing him to launche a process that will see a new Labour leader elected by 12 January.
Muscat said he will resign as party leader once a successor is elected, and from the post of Prime Minister a few days later.
The announcement confirms a story published in The Malta Independent this afternoon, soon after a four-hour meeting of the parliamentary group.
In a recorded, televised address, Muscat said he was assuming responsibility for things he did not do. He said the country had stopped over the past few days, and the country needs to move forward. “Malta needs to start a new chapter and only I can give that signal,” he said.
He said he has always believed that a Prime Minister should not serve more than two terms.
Muscat also said he had kept his promise of bringing justice for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He said no one can ever justify the brutal murder of “someone who was contributing to democracy in this country.” In the same way, however, violence in the name of protests is also unacceptable.
“In the coming period, we will initiate a process so that our country will have a new Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who will continue the work and the strong mandate of this Government and continue to deliver the plan the Maltese population approved in June 2017,” he said.
“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 a Leader of the Labour Party. In the days after I will resign as a Prime Minister.
“Our country thus will start a short process of approximately a month for the Labour Party to choose a new Leader and new Prime Minister. I have also informed the President of the Republic.
“In the meantime, I will continue to carry out my responsibilities as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party. I am ensuring stability in the leadership of the country.”
This is full message:
A message to the Nation by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
As Prime Minister, I promised two years ago that justice would be done in the case of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. From the very beginning, we made sure that the police had all the resources available. Europol and other international services were also fully involved.
Today I am here to tell you that I kept my word.
Not only do we have three persons accused of this murder but, also now, someone accused of being the principal person behind this killing.
These arrests were possible only because of our willingness to see justice for this shocking murder.
In this process, I assumed full responsability and a presidential pardon was given to one individual that led to the arrest of another, accused of being the principal person behind this murder.
The man accused of being the principal person requested a pardon too. The recommendation of the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police was to reject this request. The Cabinet unanimously was against this pardon. Ms Caruana Galizia’s family was against this pardon. I was against this pardon.
I was against this pardon because I always base my decisions on what I believe to be just, and I took this view despite a message being conveyed to me that if this pardon were not given efforts would be made to try to tarnish my reputation.
All my decisions have been based on what I believe to be just, only in what is just.
Justice is being done. And I will see that justice is for everyone.
Investigations are not complete. No one is above justice.
Every single day of these past two years I have shouldered responsibilities and taken decisions. I made decisions in the best interests for the conclusion of the case and I am convinced that some decisions were good while others could have been better made. Frequently, these were moments where I had to decide on my own in solitude. Because this is what the role of Prime Minister demands.
All the responsability I had to shoulder surely does not compare to the pain that the vicitim’s family is enduring.
I reiterate my deepest regret that a person who, with all her positive and negative qualities and contribution towards the democracy of our country, was killed in such a brutal way.
The sensations of genuine sadness and anger for this murder are justified. And I will never accept that someone conveys a signal that in any way he or she is justifying this murder. In the same manner, violence and disorder, within the pretext of a protest, are not justified in a democracy.
Our country should be proud of the the work of the Malta Police Force. I thank all the authorities, including the Attorney General, for working with attention to detail and diligence and giving advice on the basis of what is just.
Our institutions are strong and they function. Shame on anyone who ridicules them as he or she is ridiculing our country.
I look forward to this difficult chapter in the story of our country being closed, but not forgotten.
In the past year, I was attacked when I spoke and attacked when I did not speak, as though I was manipulating the media. As from tomorrow, we have to look forward. I understand that for this to happen there is a need for a clear signal of a fresh page, and this signal can be given only by me, as I need to shoulder everyone’s responsibilities, even where I am not involved.
This is not the moment for partisan politics or the type of opportunism seen in these difficult days. I believe that the public know who acted in the right manner and who acted wrongly and will separate those who were genuine from those who were not.
This case cannot define everything that our country is and what we have accomplished together.
These past seven years were wonderful for our country. They were years that saw our country recover so that we established ourselves as the best economy in Europe, with an average annual growth rate of more that 6 per cent.
We were a country with more that 7,000 unemployed persons. Today one of our biggest problems is that we do not have enough persons for new job vacancies.
I am proud of our reforms in social justice and civil rights.
We elevated many persons from poverty and created a new middle class. We increased pensions year after year. We reduced taxes, and we did not introduce any taxes for the past three years. We have a country where families are better off because we reduced billis without precedent. We revolutionised the way energy is generated and we delivered cleaner air in the south of Malta.
Gozo has become a place with educational, health and technological investment, so that is experiencing economic growth greater than Malta.
We introduced free childcare so that more persons can work and introduced free transport for all students. And we started a substantial project to build 1,000 new social housing units. These are only some of the Government measures which thousands of persons, in the privacy of their homes, know helped them to get out of poverty.
Above all, today we have parents that have children thanks to new procedures that we intoduced for IVF in our public health care. Other measures have helped parents to adopt.
We have ensured our society is more just and that love is equal for everyone with marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.
When someone tells me we did not do anything for those left behind, I smile. We did not do enough, that’s true. You can never do enough. But we did a lot to help those who were left behind and we managed to get them out of poverty through the measures which I have mentioned. These are thousands of families who acknowledge that their livelihood improved because our country moved forward. They are the silent majority who are testiment to our work and who support this Government.
But our country comes first. I have never forgotten this principle since the day I was chosen to be Leader of Opposition in 2008 and it stayed with me from the first day I was Prime Minister.
The trust and love that this country has delivered in every electoral mandate given to me in the past twelve years has made me focus on the best interests of our country.
Since before being elected Prime Minister, I always said that I believed a Prime Minister should serve no more than two legislatures.
Now the time has come to practice what I believe in.
In the coming period, we will initiate a process so that our country will have a new Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who will continue the work and the strong mandate of this Government and continue to deliver the plan the Maltese population approved in June 2017.
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 a Leader of the Labour Party. In the days after I will resign as a Prime Minister.
Our country thus will start a short process of approximately a month for the Labour Party to choose a new Leader and new Prime Minister. I have also informed the President of the Republic.
In the meantime, I will continue to carry out my responsibilities as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party. I am ensuring stability in the leadership of the country.
As Prime Minister of Malta and Gozo, I loved my country. I was not perfect. I had my defects and for them I apologise personally, even when these shortcomings were because of someone else. I assure you that I never held back from giving all my strength to give back for all that you have given to me.
I know that the majority of the Maltese and Gozitan population trusted me and still trust me. For this I thank you with all my heart. Because of this trust, there were those who asked me: why now? My answer is that this is what needs to be done.
I believe that the trust that you have shown me is still there, and I am leaving with the comfort that this trust is at its best.
But this move will guarantee to preserve a legacy of economic growth and social justice without precedent.
We still have a lot to do and, with your help, our country can be even better in the future, building on the strong foundations we achieved together.
From tomorrow, our work continues for Malta.