The Labor Party of Malta voted Saturday, January 11 to elect her and the new leader of the country following the fall of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat about the murder of an investigative journalist.
Muscat is not directly implicated in the case but announced his resignation last month after testimony by the self-confessed middleman in the murder plot linked people in his inner circle to attempts at an alleged cover-up.
Abela, who is seen as representing continuity, was elected leader of the Labour Party, meaning he automatically takes the role of prime minister.
Considered an outsider who has only been a member of parliament since 2017, Abela had sided with critics of the investigation into Caruana Galizia's murder.
Al Jazeera's Neave Barker reports from the capital, Valletta.
It is expected that around 17,500 Labor voters will vote for the first interim Prime Minister of the party in history.
Muscat, 45, had to resign later Sunday.
Born in June 1977 and a lawyer by profession, Abela has been serving as a member of the House of Representatives of Malta since 2017.
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She was killed by a vehicle bomb in 2017 as she investigated corruption in Malta.
Synchronized with the "one woman WikiLeaks", Caruana Galizia has exposed corruption at the highest level on the Mediterranean island. He was up against Chris Fearne, 56, the deputy prime minister and minister of health, who had been the initial favourite to win.
Neither of them has criticized Muscat or referred to the murder of Caruana Galizia in the run-up to the elections.
The probe into Caruana Galizia's death led to a political crisis in Malta. Both have insisted they represent continuity, highlighting their determination to keep the economy on its stellar trajectory. Muscat has announced that he will step down after the election of the new Labor leader.
Three men are being tried for allegedly detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia, while a fourth powerful businessman, Jorgen Fenech, was charged as an accomplice after being arrested while trying to leave the country on his yacht.
"Muscat's landslide, back-to-back, electoral triumphs in the midst of great economic success contrasted heavily with a prime minister who at the end of 2019 was met with a barrage of eggs, vegetables, and sonorous boos every time he exited parliament", it said.
The murder and probe "cast an indelible stain on Muscat and his administration", Malta Today wrote Saturday.