Joseph Muscat’s departure from parliament appears imminent

Joseph Muscat has not given an indication of when he intends to resign from parliament but a new Facebook profile picture has fired up the rumour mill on the day that marks 12 years since he first made it to parliament as Opposition leader in 2008

Joseph Muscat's profile picture that has set the rumour mill going
Joseph Muscat's profile picture that has set the rumour mill going

A new Facebook profile picture uploaded by Joseph Muscat has fired up the rumour mill that his resignation from parliament is imminent.

Sources close to the Labour Party have long speculated that Muscat will step down when parliament reconvenes after the summer recess next week.

Muscat has said nothing so far but yesterday changed the profile picture on his Facebook account to one that symbolises a farewell pose. The photo from one of Muscat’s meetings, shows the former prime minister with his hand on his heart.

Although the change in picture may mean absolutely nothing, sources within the PL have interpreted it as Muscat’s way of preparing the groundwork for his departure from parliament.

Today marks the 12th anniversary when Muscat was sworn in Opposition leader, four months after clinching the Labour leadership in 2008.

MaltaToday has reached out to Muscat but received no reply yet.

Parliament reopens on Monday as Robert Abela’s administration prepares to deliver its first budget.

Muscat was forced to resign in January after damning court testimony linked his former chief of staff Keith Schembri to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Muscat faced mounting pressure and big protests in Valletta late last year, shortly after businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested and accused in court of masterminding Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Court testimony given by pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma, and statements made to the police by Fenech, showed how Schembri had passed on sensitive information about the murder investigation to Fenech.

Schembri, who was a close friend of Fenech, has denied the claims.

But Schembri is now also facing a police investigation into money laundering and kickbacks prompted by a magisterial inquiry concluded last month into allegations that he took money from his accountant Brian Tonna from the sale of citizenship to a Russian family.

Muscat had retained Schembri as chief of staff despite his name cropping up in the Panama Papers in 2016. The ex-prime minister had told ministers at the time that Schembri was a person of trust and he would be the one to take any decision on him.

Schembri was retained chief of staff after the 2017 election, escaping any sort of action in his regard until he resigned in November 2019 when Fenech was arrested.

Casual election

Muscat’s resignation from parliament will mean that a casual election will have to be held on the Second District.

The only two Labour candidates left unelected on the district are former parliamentary secretary Stefan Buontempo and Mark Causon, a former Alternattiva Demokratika candidate who shifted to Labour after 2008.