VALLETTA, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Malta's Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne announced his bid on Friday to throw his name in the hat once nominations for the post of prime minister open on Monday.
Fearne, a 56-year-old surgeon by profession, has long been touted for the job as a replacement for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who has signalled his intention to leave office before the next election.
In a Facebook post, Fearne said this was a historic moment for the country and the Labour Party. "We are at a crossroads and the choices we make will have a huge impact on our future," he said.
He promised that the historic mandate given to his party in the 2017 election will be fulfilled with more determination and that unity in the party remains to continue winning elections.
Soon after his announcement, various ministers and Labour members of parliament expressed their support for him, including Transport Minister Ian Borg, who had been mentioned as a possible contender.
The race for the Labour Party's leadership officially began last Sunday, when Muscat announced his intention to resign in January. He has seen mounting pressure to resign immediately in view of the backlash suffered following revelations about potential links between his government and the people questioned over their involvement in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.
Leading anti-corruption journalist Caruana Galizia, 53, was killed in a car bombing near her home in 2017. The investigations into her murder are ongoing.
Fearne said that he will see to it that the whole truth will emerge in the murder case, that justice is carried out and that the country's institutions are led with integrity and independence.
He also said that he will carry the weight of responsibility, will make sure that others will also shoulder theirs and that every stain will be removed from Malta's reputation.
Malta's Labour Party said on Monday that nominations for Muscat's successor will be open between Dec. 9 and Dec. 11. If there are more than two contenders, a first round of voting will be held on Jan. 7. The last two candidates left in the race will face a final vote on Jan. 11 during the Labour Party's three-day congress.
According to Malta's electoral system, the prime minister is the leader of the party that wins a general election, which is held every five years. The Labour Party won the election in 2017.