Joseph Muscat took on the mantle of Prime Minister as thousands of supporters yesterday thronged Valletta for his swearing-in ceremony.
A day after Labour won the election by a landslide, Dr Muscat solemnly swore to serve as Prime Minister “without fear or favour according to the Constitution”.
These words, broadcast outside the Palace on a big screen, elicited a cacophony of fog horns and cheers.
Dr Muscat is Labour’s first Prime Minister since Alfred Sant’s short-lived administration 15 years ago.
After the official ceremony with President George Abela, the Prime Minister stepped on to the balcony to greet cheering supporters in St George’s Square.
Under the drizzling rain, Dr Muscat – accompanied by his wife Michelle and five-year-old twin daughters – waved to the crowd.
Speaking to journalists soon after, Dr Muscat said people voted not only for a change in government but for a new way of doing politics. He said the Opposition would be involved in preparations for Malta’s EU presidency in 2017.
“We want to work with all those who wish to work with the new Government, even if they do not agree with the Labour Party.”
Asked about forming a Cabinet, Dr Muscat said he wanted to wait for the vote-counting results to be out before appointing ministers.
“A Cabinet may be formed on Tuesday [today] or Wednesday but I already have an idea,” he added.
Dr Muscat said the historic mandate – the party won 55 per cent of the vote and will have a substantial majority in Parliament – meant his Government had greater responsibility not to run roughshod over the Opposition.
He also spelt out his government’s immediate priorities: Labour’s energy plan to lower water and electricity rates, drafting a law on political party financing, introducing a Whistleblower’s Act and the removal of the time-bar on corruption cases involving politicians.
Dr Muscat said other priorities included the implementation of existing laws that were never given effect such as parole and IVF.
The Prime Minister said he wanted Parliament to meet as early as possible after Easter to get the Budget approved. “To do this I will be consulting the Opposition,” he said, acknowledging the PN had to undergo a transition period until it elects a new leader.
The country has a constitutional deadline to approve the Budget by April to avoid financial gridlock.
Dr Muscat reiterated the same message and assurances of a “tranquil transition” to ensure stability during a televised address to the nation last night.
After waving to supporters from the main window of Auberge de Castille, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister-elect Louis Grech – who has not yet been sworn in – he said the Government wanted to hit the ground running.
He then held a meeting behind closed doors with the head of the civil service to start the handover.