Malta PM Joseph Muscat calls snap general election

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Malta"s Prime Minister Joseph MuscatImage source, Reuters
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Malta's PM Joseph Muscat sai

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has called a snap general election for 3 June, a year before his term ends.

The opposition has been calling for his resignation over allegations that his wife owned an offshore company in Panama.

Mr Muscat and his wife, Michelle, deny the claims. A magisterial inquiry is under way.

He said "truth is on my side" but that he wanted to protect Malta from uncertainty.

The current scandal erupted earlier this month when the blogger Daphne Caruna Galizia made the claims, which she based on documents from the so-called Panama Papers, a leak of millions of files from the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca.

"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," Mr Muscat said on Monday.

"My duty, however, is not just to protect myself but also to safeguard my country... We cannot allow uncertainty to slow the rhythm of Malta's economic miracle," he said.

The country is enjoying record low unemployment and economic growth of more than 3.5 percent.

But anti-corruption protesters took to the streets against Mr Muscat's government last week.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said on Monday that Mr Muscat was "the dirty past of four corrupt years," local media reported.

The Panama Papers last year revealed that both Malta's energy minister and the government's chief of staff had opened offshore companies in Panama.

Malta currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.