[WATCH] 'Let's ensure Muscat stays on' - Konrad Mizzi sidesteps leadership bid questions

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi won't confirm or deny interest in Labour Party leadership post, insists Joseph Muscat still has a lot of good to offer Malta

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi today insisted he would be working to persuade Joseph Muscat to remain on as Labour Party leader
Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi today insisted he would be working to persuade Joseph Muscat to remain on as Labour Party leader

Konrad Mizzi has avoided confirming or denying an active interest in taking over as leader of the Labour Party when Joseph Muscat steps down, insisting instead that he would be working to make sure the current Prime Minister stays on.

The Tourism Minister said it was his duty to set in motion a campaign to keep Muscat in the leadership post, since the Prime Minister still had a lot to offer to the country.

Mizzi was fielding questions from journalists on Sunday morning after a press conference concerning the latest developments at Air Malta.

Asked whether he thought that - given the allegations made against him concerning the Panama Papers revelations and his ownership of the Panamanian company Hearnville - him being in a leadership post would cast a shadow over the Labour Party, Mizzi said that, at this point, his aim was to persuade Muscat not to resign, as the Prime Minister had said numerous times in the past he would do before the next general election.

READ ALSO: Konrad Mizzi sounds out leadership bid with Labour delegates

Mizzi said that the government had brought about a host of improvements in several areas, but that Muscat should remain leading the country and further ensuring that the generation of economic wealth is spread across all of society.

"Joseph Muscat is the leader, and all the party is behind him. I have had the opportunity to work with him for the past few years. Apart from that, he is a good friend of mine - I respect him, and I think he is the best Prime Minister Malta ever had," he said.

"It is my duty to work with the delegates and members of the party to bring forward a strong campaign to keep [Joseph Muscat] in the leadership role," the minister emphasised, "Since 2013 we've put into effect a number of changes: we've expanded the economy, reduced electricity tarriffs, addressed out-of-stock medicnes, introduced free child care, started dealing with the pensions issue and created new jobs. But we are still only half-way there. We have to ensure that [the benefits of] economic growth is spread across all of society, and that no one is left behind."

Pressed on whether he would consider running for leader if and when Muscat does relinquish his post, Mizzi remained noncommittal.

"At this stage, I am being very clear: Dr Muscat is the most popular leader our country has ever had, and we want to ensure that he stays on - it is good for the country. The journey is still not over, and I am convinced there is more left to do and that our country can truly have major aspirations."

Court has already pronounced itself on Panama Papers issue - Mizzi

Prompted for a reaction on the news that former PN leader Simon Busuttil as well as rule of law NGO Repubblika had both filed new applications calling for a court inquiry into the Panama Papers allegations, Mizzi said that the highest court in Malta had already issued a decision on the matter. 

Mizzi was referring to a decision by the Court of Appeal in January, which had overturned an order by Magistrate Ian Farrugia for a magisterial inquiry into the Panama Papers revelations.

"Simon Busuttil latched onto this issue since he became leader of the PN, and for the last four years he has kept on trumping it. I think that, in general, this bothers people. The Maltese people voted [in 2017], and I think the results were clear, because Busuttil's strategy did not work at the polls," Mizzi said today.

"On my part, I have always respected the court's [decisions]. We have respected the processes which we started and which Busuttil started. The highest court has already pronounced itself on the matter," he added.