Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Monday announced early elections amid mounting corruption claims and opposition calls for his resignation. Muscat called new elections for June 3, nearly 10 months early, at a May Day rally of his ruling Labor Party supporters.
The 43-year-old prime minister has been under pressure in recent weeks after popular blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia made claims that his wife, Michelle, owned an offshore shell company in Panama. A magisterial inquiry has been launched into the issue. Owning offshore accounts is not illegal in Malta, but the revelations and investigation have created a political backlash.
Muscat has denied the claims that his wife received money from the daughter of energy-rich Azerbaijan’s president through a company established by the law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The law firm was at the center of the Panama Papers released last year, which revealed secret tax havens set up by the rich and powerful.
Muscat’s ruling Labor Party government was roiled when the Panama Papers showed that his chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi owned secret offshore companies. The identity of the owner of a third offshore account remained elusive until last month’s bombshell claim linking it to Muscat’s wife.