Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Monday called a snap general election for June 3, a year before the end of his term, responding to allegations by a prominent blogger of improper business dealings by his wife.
Muscat denied allegations that his wife, Michelle, owns an offshore company set up secretly in Panama while a magisterial inquiry has been launched. Having an offshore company isn't illegal.
"Everybody knows about the attacks made in the past few days on me and my family. I have nothing to fear because truth is on my side and I am clean," Muscat said of the allegations, which he has denounced as lies.
"My duty, however, is not just to protect myself but also to safeguard my country, and I will not tolerate a situation where jobs are lost because of uncertainty. We cannot allow uncertainty to slow the rhythm of Malta’s economic miracle."
He told a rally of his ruling Labour Party that later on Monday he would ask the president of Malta, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, to dissolve parliament.
Muscat was elected with a strong majority in 2013 and opinion polls in two newspapers on Sunday showed Labour leading the opposition Nationalist Party by 4 percentage points.
Muscat has been buoyed by a strong economic performance including record low unemployment, a government financial surplus and steady growth in excess of 3.5 percent