Joseph Muscat insisted that under “no circumstances” will he change his mind to step down as prime minister after two terms in government.

Speculation has been growing that Dr Muscat would rethink his decision to extend his political career, especially after a resounding electoral victory last June.

The rumours grew after former Tourism Minister and close friend Edward Zammit Lewis called Dr Muscat to rethink his decision of stepping down before the next general election.

But speaking during the PBS radio talk show Għandi Xi Ngħid, the prime minister was categoric: he said he will stick to his word and step down from his post by the next election and will not change his mind.

In a one-hour interview, Dr Muscat touched upon various policies and controversies and at one point defended both chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi after their involvement in offshore dealings.

Konrad Mizzi bowed his head and sanctions were taken in his regard – his portfolio was taken away, he stepped down as deputy leader. He bowed his head

Asked whether the resounding electoral victory had exonerated Dr Mizzi in his mind, he claimed the former energy minister had paid the political price for his involvement in the scandal.

"Konrad Mizzi bowed his head and sanctions were taken in his regard – his portfolio was taken away, he stepped down as deputy leader. He needed to report to me. All of this wasn’t easy... He bowed his head," he said, dismissing a comment from presenter Andrew Azzopardi that he was kicked upstairs. 

“He published his audit, people voted for him, I entrusted him with another job and Konrad Mizzi is now showing his worth in another matter."

“Everyone knows the criticism that is levelled against him but nobody can criticise him for not being a doer,” he said, in reference to the changes at Air Malta. 

No conflict of interest on Crane

Dr Muscat also rejected claims of a possible conflict of interest between Keith Schembri and the newly-opened Crane Currency over the servicing of machines. 

Read: No conflict of interest between chief of staff and Crane Currency - PM

He said multi-national company like Crane which stamps US dollars does not need to curry favours with a chief of staff of a prime minister to buy machines.

“They buy whatever’s best for them. I don't see a conflict of interest,” he maintained. 

Dr Muscat also spoke at length about the changes to the constitution and did not exclude a referendum to get a strong mandate once the discussions are concluded and the changes proposed.

He said work was underway behind the scenes to ensure there is a structure all parties are comfortable with, and that could reach the desired goals.

The prime minister said he was happy to hear that the Archbishop would not oppose the removal of Catholicism from the constitution, stressing that while Malta was a predominantly Catholic country, the constitution's wording could do with some changes.

He insisted that it will be President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca who will lead the drive towards the necessary changes. 

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