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Joseph Muscat

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Joseph Muscat
KUOM
PM Joseph Muscat.jpg
13th Prime Minister of Malta
Assumed office
March 11, 2013
President George Abela
Marie Louise Coleiro Preca
Deputy Louis Grech
Preceded by Lawrence Gonzi
13th Chairperson-in-office of the Commonwealth of Nations
Assumed office
November 27, 2015
Head Elizabeth II
Preceded by Maithripala Sirisena
Personal details
Born (1974-01-22) 22 January 1974 (age 43)
Pietà, Malta
Political party Labour Party
Spouse(s) Michelle Tanti
Children 2
Alma mater University of Malta
University of Bristol
Website Joseph Muscat

Joseph Muscat MP, KUOM, (born January 22, 1974) is a Maltese politician who has served as Prime Minister of Malta since 2013,[1] and Leader of the Partit Laburista (PL) since June 2008.[2] Muscat was re-elected as Prime Minister on the 3rd of June 2017 (55.04% after 54.83% in 2013).[3] Previously he was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 2004 to 2008.[4] He was Leader of the Opposition from October 2008 to March 2013.[5] Muscat identifies as a progressive and liberal politician, with pro-business leanings,[6] and has been associated with both economically liberal and socially liberal policies.[7]

Becoming an MP in 2008, he succeeded Alfred Sant as party leader. Muscat rebranded the Labour Party, which embraced an increasingly socially liberal position. The 2013 General Election led to Muscat becoming Prime Minister and taking office in March 2013.[2] His first premiership was marked for pulling together a national consensus for economic growth, based on a restructured Maltese economy. Following the Gonzi administration, and with continued support from the newly elected Labour government, Malta became an attractive location for foreign direct investment in financial services, online gaming, information technology, maritime and aviation hubs and high value-added manufacturing clusters.[8] His administration led to large-scale changes to welfare with the introduction of social benefit tapering policies,[9] increases in minimum wages,[10] and introduced private sector involvement in healthcare.[11] It partly privatised the national energy provider,[12] and officially recognised same-sex unions in Malta. The legislation established civil unions for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples with the same rights as those available to married couples,[13] including joint adoption rights.[14] Same-sex marriage was legalised in mid-July 2017.[15]

Beyond making the Maltese left electable, Muscat presided over the rise of the Labour party and its dominance in Maltese politics, and the relative decline of the Nationalist Party. Muscat has been praised for eliminating Malta's national deficit,[16] decreasing unemployment to historic lows,[17] and presiding over an unprecedented period of economic growth.[18]

Conversely, he has been criticised by figures on both the left and right, and has been accused of political opportunism,[19] broken promises on meritocracy[20] and the environment,[21] as well as corruption allegations.[22] These allegations were the focus of the 2017 General Election, which returned Muscat with a larger majority of 38,000 votes.[23]

Early life and career

Family

Joseph Muscat was born on January 22, 1974, in Pietà, Malta to a Burmarrad family.[24] He is an only child.[24] With his father a fireworks importer, Muscat constantly referred to his family roots when describing his aversion to bureaucracy that hinders business.[24] Muscat is married to Michelle née Tanti and they are the parents of twins, Etoile Ella and Soleil Sophie.[25]

Education

Muscat received his formal education at the Government Primary School in St. Paul’s Bay, Stella Maris and St. Aloysius’ College.[26] Educated at St. Aloysius' in the 1980s, Muscat experienced the closure of Church schools by the Labour government of the day.[24] This experience was reflected in the Labour party’s 2013 manifesto with a pledge to continue financially supporting Church schools.[24]

He graduated Bachelor of Commerce in Management and Public Policy (University of Malta, 1995),[27] Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Public Policy (University of Malta, 1996),[27] and Master of Arts in European Studies (University of Malta, 1997).[27] In 2007, he attained a Doctorate of Philosophy in Management Research from the University of Bristol (UK)[26] with a thesis on Fordism, multinationals and SMEs in Malta.[27]

Career

He worked as a journalist with the Labour Party’s media arm and founded the Party’s now defunct news portal maltastar.com. He also worked as a journalist with the party's radio station, Super One Radio.[28] He later took on a similar role at Super One Television, becoming the station's assistant head of news in 1996.[26] Muscat wrote a regular column in L-Orizzont,[29] a Maltese-language newspaper published by the General Workers' Union and its sister Sunday weekly It-Torċa,[29] and was a regular contributor to The Times, an independent newspaper published in Malta.[29] Muscat also worked as an investment advisor in the private sector.[30]

Politics

Muscat was as a member of the youth section of the Labour Party, the Labour Youth Forum (Forum Żgħażagħ Laburisti) where he served as Financial Secretary (1994–97) and Acting Chairperson (1997).[29] He later served as Education Secretary in the Central Administration of the Party (2001–2003) and Chairman of its Annual General Conference (November 2003).[29] During the Labour government of 1996-98 he was a member of the National Commission for Fiscal Morality (1997–98).[29]

After staunchly campaigning against Malta's membership in the European Union, the Labour Party lost its second general election in a row. In 2003, Muscat was nominated to a working group led by George Vella and Evarist Bartolo on the Labour Party's policies on the European Union.[29] This working group produced the document Il-Partit Laburista u l-Unjoni Ewropea: Għall-Ġid tal-Maltin u l-Għawdxin ('Labour Party and the European Union: For the benefit of the Maltese and the Gozitans') which was adopted by the Labour Party Extraordinary General Conference in November of that year.[29] The working group was instrumental in changing the Labour Party's eurosceptic policies, leading it to embrace a pro-EU stance. At this General Conference, Muscat was approved as a candidate for the election to the European Parliament.[29]

Member of the European Parliament (2004-2008)

Joseph Muscat addressing Maltese Parliament in November 2011

Despite having previously expressed opposition to Malta's entry into the European Union,[31] Muscat was elected to the European Parliament in the 2004 European Parliament election. He was the Labour Party (formerly the Malta Labour Party) candidate who received the most first-preference votes.[32] Sitting as a Member of the European Parliament, with the Party of European Socialists, he held the post of Vice-President of the Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and substitute member of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.[4] He was a member of a number of delegations for relations with Belarus and with the countries of south-east Europe.[4] He was also a member of the EU-Armenia, EU-Azerbaijan and EU-Georgia Parliamentary Cooperation Committees.[4]

As an MEP he supported a reduction in the tax for satellite television,[33] the right for customers to watch sport events for free,[34] and a number of issues related to environmental protection in Malta.[35] He formed part of a team responsible for a report on the roaming mobile phone bills and sale of banks.[4]

Muscat resigned his seat in the European Parliament in 2008 to take up a seat in the Maltese Parliament, and the role of Leader of the Opposition.[5] Four months previously, he had been elected Leader of the Labour Party. Before his resignation his report proposing new regulations for the EU’s financial services sector was adopted by the European Parliament.[4]

Leader of Labour Party

Joseph Muscat at a meeting while explaining political agenda

On March 24, 2008 Muscat announced his candidacy for the post of Party Leader,[36] to replace Alfred Sant, who had resigned after a third consecutive defeat for the Party in the March 2008 general election and a heavy defeat in the EU referendum in March 2003.[37]

Although at the time Muscat was not a member of the Maltese House of Representatives, he was elected as the new party leader on June 6, 2008.[37] Muscat was just three votes short of winning the contest outright, obtaining 435 of the 874 valid votes cast, three fewer than the 438 needed (50 per cent plus one). He garnered 49.8 per cent of valid votes cast while the combined number of votes of the other contestants was 50.2 per cent.[37] In order to take up the post of Leader of the Opposition, Muscat was co-opted in the Maltese Parliament on October 1, 2008 to fill the seat vacated by Joseph Cuschieri for the purpose.[38] The latter eventually took up the sixth seat allocated to Malta in the European Parliament once the Treaty of Lisbon was brought into effect in 2011.[38] On taking up the Leadership post, Muscat introduced a number of changes to the Party, notably the change of official name and party emblem.[39][40] In the 2009 Maltese European Parliament Elections, the first with Muscat as Party Leader, Labour candidates obtained 55% of first-preferences against the 40% obtained by candidates of the Nationalist Party.[41]

First term as Prime Minister

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat shaking hands in Auberge de Castille, Valletta.

Muscat contested Malta's general elections for the first time in March 2013 and was elected on District 2 on the first count, with 13,968 votes and on District 4 again on the first count with 12,202 votes and 53% of the vote.[42] On March 11, 2013 he was sworn in as Prime Minister of Malta.[2] Following his election victory, Muscat was congratulated in a statement by the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, on behalf of the European Commission.[43]

Muscat presided over Malta's economic turnaround, and - amongst others - was instrumental for the introduction and strengthening of civil liberties, improvements in the health and energy sector, and the elimination of out-of-stock medicines, the reduction in energy tariffs, the introduction of free-childcare centres, higher social benefits to parents and the youth employment guarantee.[44] Upon being elected to office, the Muscat administration found a worsening public deficit, a slowdown in the economy, the country's main utility provider on the verge of bankruptcy and a slowing economy in Gozo. The directional change resulted in an economic growth of over 6%, the elimination of the public deficit and a decrease in the public debt burden.[44] Poverty was reduced and pensions were increased for the first time in 25 years. Muscat insisted that these results were delivered by his government as a team.[44] Among others, the Muscat administration's family friendly measures led to a 9% increase in female participation in the labour market, substantial savings to first-time home buyers, the value-added tax car registration refund, in-work benefits to low-income couples and single parents, stipends given to 900 students who repeated a year and the introduction of civil unions. Muscat admitted that his first administration had its challenges, namely the environment and good governance.[44]

Panama Papers

In 2016, two of Muscat's close collaborators were implicated in the Panama Papers, holding two companies in that jurisdiction.[45] These were Konrad Mizzi, a minister, and Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff.[45] In 2017, a journalist and blogger intimately connected with the Nationalist Party, Daphne Caruana Galizia, and then the Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil, alleged that Muscat's wife held a third company in Panama.[46] Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil endorsed a fight against corruption as a Nationalist Party battlecry. Muscat and his wife Michelle denied the claims and Muscat requested an independent magisterial inquiry to get under way.[47] Muscat insisted that truth was on his side, and that he wanted to protect Malta from uncertainty, and called a general election.[47]

General Election 2017

The Labour Party ran a serene campaign, which focused on the administration's successes and achievements over the previous four years.[48] Muscat stressed the record economic growth and employment levels, and the turnaround in the country's finances from deficit to surplus.[49] The Labour campaign highlighted the fulfilled pledges, dealing with tax reductions, social benefits and childcare, as well as higher student stipends.[49] Labour's fight on poverty and increase in pensions also featured prominently.[49] Muscat's pledges for the next five years were aimed at the better distribution of the country’s wealth, giving workers back public holidays that fall during a weekend, an ambitious seven year plan to resurface all of Malta’s roads and a tax bonus for every worker earning up to 60,000 euro.[50][51][52][53]

The Labour Party, with Muscat at its helm, won the 2017 General Election and was returned to power with a wider majority.[54][55] Muscat was congratulated for his victory by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.[56] Muscat's first commitment upon being elected was the introduction of a gay marriage law before Parliament's summer recess.[57] Same-sex marriage was legalised by mid-July 2017.[15]

Health

On April 7, 2014, Muscat suffered from temporary blindness caused by UV radiation probably related to burns to his cornea. Like 60 other people with similar symptoms, he had participated at a political rally the day before.[58]

Honours

National honours

Foreign honours

References

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  60. ^ Honorary awards Archived 2016-05-18 at the Wayback Machine.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Alfred Sant
Leader of the Labour Party
2008–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Alfred Sant
Leader of the Opposition
2008–2013
Succeeded by
Lawrence Gonzi
Preceded by
Lawrence Gonzi
Prime Minister of Malta
2013–present
Incumbent
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Maithripala Sirisena
Chairperson of the Commonwealth of Nations
2015
Incumbent