The Social Democratic Labor Party took over
government power in 2013. The party was re-elected in
the summer of 2017, even though leading politicians
within the party were accused of involvement in
suspicious business transactions in connection with the
so-called Panama documents. In early 2020, disclosures
in connection with the investigation into the murder of
investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia 2017 led
to the replacement of the party's head of government.
The Labor Party won a clear victory in the 2013
parliamentary elections with 55 percent of the vote. The
Nationalist Party got 40 percent. New Prime Minister
became Labor leader Joseph Muscat.
Country facts and history of Malta, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
During the election campaign, the Labor Party had
promised to work for a more just and open government in
the office. One promise was that public services should
be added primarily on merit. As a consequence, the Labor
Party appointed a number of political opponents to
government posts and posts within the state
administration, which caused controversy within both
parties. The Labor Party members complained that the
Nationalist Party had already given many of its members
important items before the election, while the
Nationalist Party claimed that the appointments made it
harder for the Party to fulfill its role as opposition
party and review the work of the government.
Other changes received better reception, such as the
introduction of a law to protect "whistleblowers"
(people who alert about misconduct) and the abolition of
a time limit for corruption charges against politicians.
The government also introduced ethical rules for MPs and
increased transparency about how the state spent its tax
In the area of civil law reforms were also
implemented. It became easier to get a divorce and gays
got the right to enter into partnerships and adopt
children. Free daycare was introduced in the hope of
attracting more women into the labor market.
The government's failures included a heavily delayed
power plant construction. The government also met with
resistance and was forced to revise its plans to sell
Maltese citizenship to foreign investors (see Calendar).
The government continued to enjoy high confidence
despite its reputation being sunk by a couple of real
estate deals criticized by the state's accountants. To
this end, a good economy contributed with historically
low unemployment and a budget space for investments in
pensions and other elements of the welfare system.
When the scandal surrounding the so-called Panama
Papers broke out in the spring of 2016, the Energy
Minister and the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff were
singled out for hiding money on secret accounts in
various tax havens.
Against the backdrop of the scandal, the opposition
directed a declaration of no confidence in the
government which was voted down by the numbers 38 to 31.
After the vote, the government was reformed and several
ministers were replaced.
But the Panama deal was not outsourced. A year later,
in April 2017, a blogger went out with information
allegedly coming from the Panama leaks that the Prime
Minister's wife Michelle Muscat owned a so-called
offshore company (mailbox company) in Panama. Muscat
claimed that he and his wife had nothing to hide, but a
judicial inquiry would be launched. At the same time,
anti-corruption demonstrations were held in Valletta.
In early May, Muscat announced that a new election
would be held on June 3, one year before his term
expires. He said that the corruption rumors would
otherwise risk undermining economic development.
The incumbent government benefited from the continued
good economy, for 2017 a growth of 5 percent was
predicted and central government debt was under control.
The short electoral movement was dominated by the
Panama scandal and its consequences for Malta. When the
election results were largely clear, it turned out that
the Labor Party and Prime Minister Muscat, despite the
scandal, gained renewed confidence in the electorate.
Journalist murder leads to government crisis
A few months after the new election, in October 2017,
the country was shaken by a brutal murder of journalist
Daphne Caruana Galizia, the one who had raised on his
popular blog the suspicions that Prime Minister Muscat
and his wife were linked to the Panama scandal. Prime
Minister Muscat condemned the murder, but admitted that
Galizia had been his "main opponent". He promised to
bring justice. In his blog, Galizia had also accused the
opposition party Nationalist Party of corruption.
Three men were arrested a couple of months after the
murder, but yet in the fall of 2019 no trial had been
held. Early criticism was directed at the government and
the police from judges and human rights organizations,
both abroad and within the country, for those who
planned and ordered the murder to go free.
In the summer of 2018, Prime Minister Muscat was
freed from corruption suspicions in connection with the
Panama scandal. An inquest had been made by a judge in
the country without any evidence showing that Joseph
Muscat was guilty of financial crime. His wife, who had
also been investigated, was found to be innocent.
In September 2019, the government appointed a public
inquiry into the murder of Caruana Galizia. This
happened after the Council of Europe adopted a
resolution in June the same year that criticized the
Maltese judiciary and demanded an independent
investigation within three months.
A few months later, Yorgen Fenech, an influential
businessman with connections to both tourism and the
energy sector, was arrested on suspicion of ordering the
murder. A man who was alleged to have hired the
perpetrators who performed the deed had pointed out
Fenech after being promised to avoid legal penalties. A
lawsuit was initiated against Fenech, which owns a
company registered in Dubai that is alleged to own
secret shell companies in Panama. These, in turn,
according to what journalist Caruana Galizia previously
wrote about in their blog, have made payments to two
members of the current government, Chief of Staff Keith
Schembri and Minister of Tourism Konrad Mizzi. Fenech
identified Schembri as the one who planned the murder of
Caruana Galizia, which resulted in Schembri and Mizzi
leaving their records. Many in the population continued
to be critical of the government's handling of the
murder case, and even argued that "Muscat was an
obstacle to justice". Several demonstrations were held
in Valletta with thousands of participants. In early
December, Muscat announced he would step down, but only
when the Labor Party appointed a successor at the
beginning of next year. In early 2020, Robert Abela took
over as new prime minister after being elected new
leader of the Labor Party.
Follow developments in the calendar.
FACTS - POLITICS
Republic of ta'Malta / Republic of Malta
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President George Vella (2019)
Head of government
Prime Minister Robert Abela (2020)
Most important parties with mandates in the
Labor Party 37, Nationalist Party 30 (2017)
Main parties with mandates in the second most
Nationalist Party 39, Labor Party 30 (2013)
just over 92% in the 2017 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2022, the parliament appoints
a new president 2024