Embattled Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has announced plans to resign in January after coming under immense pressure for his handling of the political and legal debacle stemming from the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
On state TV, Muscat stated that "in the coming time we will launch a process to have a new prime minister." He said he will quit as leader of the ruling Labor Party in mid-January, and will resign from the post of prime minister shortly after.
Read more: Daphne Caruana Galizia: The woman who 'broke the mold'
Muscat said his reason for stepping down was that "this is what needs to be done," declining to make a direct link to his decision and the murder probe. However, he began his speech by declaring that he had kept his promise to deliver justice for Caruana Galizia, citing a recent arrest in the case.
The decision comes after Muscat's former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, was released from jail late on Thursday. Police said there were no longer grounds to hold Schembri as part of a murder investigation into the 2017 car bombing that killed Caruana Galizia. Schembri has said he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Earlier Sunday, the Labor Party parliamentary group expressed its "unanimous support" for Muscat and "the decisions he will be taking." Muscat has been in power since 2013.
Government critics decry alleged cover-up
Muscat's decision on Friday to deny immunity to jailed businessman Yorgen Fenech sparked further outrage among government critics suspicious of a high-level cover-up.
Fenech had named Schembri, along with two ministers in the government, in a criminal probe into Caruana Galizia's murder.
Fenech was reported to be prepared to give more information in return for a pardon.
On Saturday, he was charged with complicity to murder, for which he pleaded not guilty.
Schembri resigned on Tuesday. He was one of three government officials who stepped down earlier this week after being named in the investigation.
Caruana Galizia had written extensively about corruption in political and business circles in the EU's smallest state.
cw, es/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa)
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