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Lawmaker, Son of Ex-President, to Be Malta's Next Premier

Leadership contenders Robert Abela, left, and Chris Fearne, right, attend outgoing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's final speech at the party's Congress at the Corradino Sports Pavilion in Paola, Malta, Jan. 10, 2020.

A first-term lawmaker whose father was Malta's president has been chosen to be the country's prime minister. The count on Sunday showed Robert Abela received nearly 58% of votes cast by members of the governing Labour Party eligible to choose the new leader.

Abela, 42, will replace Joseph Muscat, who is stepping down midway through his second term as prime minister amid demands for accountability over the 2017 murder of an anti-corruption journalist.

The date of the premier-designate's swearing-in hasn't been announced. He is scheduled to address the party Sunday afternoon.

A close aide to Muscat was questioned in connection with journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder, denied wrongdoing and was released while still under investigation. A Maltese hotelier, who denies involvement, has been accused of complicity in the killing. Three other men, accused of triggering the car bomb, are under arrest.
Before being chosen as Labour leader, Abela said he would work to restore Malta's reputation for rule of law.

European Union lawmakers had criticized the member nation's judiciary and police.

Muscat had beaten Abela's father in the race for the party leadership in 2008. George Abela was later appointed president, serving from 2009 until 2014.