Prime Minister Joseph Muscat delivered his last parliamentary address as prime minister on Monday, saying he has not decided yet whether to stay on as an MP or leave politics altogether. 

He said that the crucial factor behind his decision to resign at this stage of the legislature was the “breakthrough” in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.

“Today was the first day of the rest of my life,” he said.

Dr Muscat announced on Sunday that he would quit as Labour leader on January 12 and quit as Prime Minister in the days after that.

Looking relaxed and jovial, he said: “I must admit that I sometimes wished to be a backbencher, to ask some parliamentary questions for my constituents,” he added. 

“I have said I will not contest another general election but I have not made up my mind yet whether to stay on till then.”

Opposition benches were empty as he spoke, with PN MPs having walked out in protest at his failure to resign immediately. Outside parliament, protesters called out "barra" [out] from behind barricades. 

“I wish well to those in the running [to succeed him], and promise whoever is elected my unconditional loyalty if I am still be a backbencher,” Dr Muscat added. 

However, he said that even if he stayed in Parliament, he would not be seeking re-election.

Dr Muscat outlined his intentions for the near future in an hour-long address which was meant to open the debate on the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigations. 

The outgoing Prime Minister expressed his deep conviction that Labour’s historic majority was not the result of his own persona or charisma, but the result of the movement that had been created.

While reiterating his decision to leave as soon as his successor at the helm of the party would be elected, scheduled for January 12, he insisted his job was to ensure a smooth transition of power and stability.

'I started off filing newspapers for Varist'

Looking back at his political career he said he did have some regrets such as when he had told Times of Malta that he aimed to become prime minister by the time he would turn 39. “With hindsight that sounded arrogant,” he remarked.

He said he wanted to write a book on his days on politics. “I have enough material for an encyclopedia,” he said.

Dr Muscat appeared reluctant to let go of the microphone, an hour into a speech which said, he had planned to last for 15 minutes.

“I started off filing newspapers for Varist,” he said, a reference to former journalist Evarist Bartolo, now the Education Minister, who has reportedly been critical of the way some matters were handled recently.

“I am prepared to return to that role, or anything, even minor, to help the party.”

He said he stood by a comment he first gave in a Times of Malta interview that a prime minister should not serve for more than two terms.

“I hope in the future there would be a debate on prime ministers being limited to two terms, and MPs maybe for five terms,” he said. 

“That means I’m out” the long-serving Education Minister Evarist Bartolo quipped.

Muscat delayed announcement

Dr Muscat said he had long been thinking when to leave. He even considered leaving before summer, then put things off to the Budget, or maybe afterwards.

He recalled he had told Times of Malta that the Budget last month was not his last. But circumstances changed, he said, admitting he wished to leave in a "better way."

Dr Muscat spoke on how he always got along very well with all Speakers in the House, including Louis Galea, Michael Frendo, whom he described as a real gentleman, and incumbent Anglu Farrugia, who he said was a gentleman too despite their history.

Malta, he added, always had prime ministers who sought to serve their country well, and he was sure that would continue to be the case. 

Changing to a somewhat sombre mood, he said this was an adventure which he did not regret and from which he had learnt a lot. “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but I feel proud to have represented and served my country,” he said.

Dr Muscat said one of his biggest regrets was of not having enacted major constitutional changes, which had been in the pipeline since 2013. He called on his successor to aim high and not seek just “cosmetic” changes

This, he added, was not his farewell speech, since he still had more to say in other public speeches, but it was likely his last speech as prime minister in the Chamber.

Dr Muscat ended his speech to long applause and handshakes by the MPs around him.

Parliament was adjourned to Tuesday, when the House will keep debating the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation. 

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