Explainer | Who is Malta’s new Prime Minister, Robert Abela

Robert Abela was elected to parliament for the first time in the 2017 general election 

Robert Abela and wife Lydia just after it became known that he won the leadership race
Robert Abela and wife Lydia just after it became known that he won the leadership race

Leadership candidate Robert Abela was on the early hours of Sunday morning confirmed as the new leader of the Labour Party. But who is Malta’s new Prime Minister?

Robert Abela, 42, is, comparatively, a newcomer: his political foray can be traced back to a PL meeting before the 2013 general election, delivering a hard-hitting speech against then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

This was a time when Gonzi had appointed Abela’s father, George Abela, as president. Gonzi’s decision was unprecedented at the time when he appointed a president from the opposing political camp.

Abela’s veritable political career took off in 2017 when he accepted to contest the general election with the Labour Party. He was elected on the Sixth District but refused an offer to join the cabinet as a parliamentary secretary, choosing instead to pursue his legal career, which included a retainer with the Planning Authority.

Abela was appointed advisor to Joseph Muscat with a right to attend cabinet meetings. His name often cropped up as Muscat’s possible successor.

His campaign promised a return to Labour’s ideological roots. Abela has ruled out a Cabinet post for Konrad Mizzi and pledged continuity while making the necessary changes to strengthen good governance. His was a simple, people’s campaign that tugged at the heartstrings of the party hard-core.

In his first speech as Labour leader, Abela said he will fix the mistakes and avoid repeating them. He said the country was facing a "sensitive period" but the situation was not tragic.

At 42, Abela will be the EU's fourth youngest prime minister or head of state.

Abela's family roots are in Qormi, where his legal office is based, but lived most of his life in Ghaxaq and Marsaskala. He attended the nun’s school in Santa Luċija and St Francis primary school in Bormla. He continued his secondary school and sixth form at St Aloysius College. He graduated as a lawyer from the University of Malta in 2002.

Abela met his future wife, Lydia, at univeristy where they attended the same course. They got married in 2008. Lydia is a lawyer and the secretary of the PL executive. They have a seven-year-old daughter, Giorgia Mae.