The Malta Independent 5 March 2021, Friday

President George Vella will not remove Delia from Opposition Leader role

Monday, 13 July 2020, 17:08 Last update: about 9 months ago

President of Malta George Vella has decreed that he will not be removing Adrian Delia as Opposition Leader.

The President said that despite Delia having lost the support of the largest group of opposition MPs, he could not be removed from the role of the Opposition leader as it should be held by the leader of the largest party in opposition.

On 9 July, the President was officially informed from two Opposition MPs that in a secret vote they held it resulted that the majority of Opposition MPs showed that they no longer had trust in Adrian Delia as Opposition Leader.


The two MPs, the statement read, "who according to them represented the others, submitted that according to the Constitution, Delia had to be removed as Opposition Leader."

"They also informed me that the same members showed support for PN MP Therese Comodini Cachia, and were moving for her to be considered for the appointment to the post of Opposition Leader, to replace Delia.

The President said that he immediately held a meeting with Delia, "and I informed him that I was going to personally consult with all Opposition MPs to establish the facts."

These meetings took place between 9 and 10 July. MPs, the President said, were given the chance to express their opinions, clearly state whether they Delia held their trust, and if they wanted Comodini Cachia to take over the constitutional role.

From the 28 opposition MPs, 16 declared that Delia no longer held their trust as Opposition Leader. 11 declared that they supported Delia and one MP abstained. "This confirmed that Delia lost the support of the majority of MPs in the largest Opposition party in Parliament.

The President quoted from the Constitution: "In the judgment of the President, a member of the House of Representatives other than the Leader of the Opposition, has become the Leader in the House of the opposition party having the greatest numerical strength in the House or, as the case may be, the Leader of the Opposition has ceased to command the support of the largest single group of members in opposition to the Government, the President shall revoke the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition."

The President noted however that in the case that it is decided to revoke the appointment of the Opposition Leader, a question immediately arises regarding who will be or can be those to occupy this position.

The President noted that according to the Constitution, the role of Opposition Leader cannot be left vacant, at least not for a long period of time.

He quoted from the Constitution regarding who, in the present circumstances, qualifies for the post.

"Whenever there shall be occasion for the appointment of a Leader of the Opposition, the President shall appoint, if  there  is  one  opposition  party  whose  numerical strength  in  the  House  of  Representatives  is  greater than  the  strength  of  any  other  opposition  party,  the member of the House of Representatives who is the Leader of that party."

The President said that if the Opposition Leader is removed from the post, and immediately or later another opposition Leader is appointed while the circumstances would not have changed, it would create an anomaly that is surely not what the Constitution was meant to do, and it would not be in the spirit of the Constitution.

He said that in the consideration of someone else, in this case an MP who would become the Parliamentary leader of the opposition party with the most MPs, and who would have the backing of the largest group of Opposition MPs but would not be the leader of the Opposition party, one also finds difficulties, as while the nomination of a new Opposition Leader goes against the spirit of the Constitution, it also goes against what is written."

This situation, he said, creates a legal and constitutional block.

"If it is decided that the Delia's Opposition Leader role is revoked, but it would not be possible to fill this role at law, it would result in a situation where there would not be an Opposition Leader. This situation would not be tenable."

The dilemma is whether one moves according to the letter of the Constitution and create a situation that goes against the Constitution, or consider the present situation as a special one and adopt special measures. That is why in my judgment, despite Adrian Delia having lost the support of the largest single group of Opposition MPs, for the role of Opposition Leader not to remain vacant, Delia should not be removed from the post of Opposition Leader as he still holds the position of Leader of the largest party in opposition."

The President said that this decision for now stops the discussion regarding who ought to be appointed as Opposition leader, while not stopping any discussion regarding what measures can be taken to correct this situation

The President said that he also kept in mind that any decision he took must respect democracy and the serene environment one wants to see in Parliament and in the country.

He said that the situation was unprecedented and he hopes that measures will be taken, and developments will take place that will help to further clarify the situation. "Special cases like the one before us merit special treatment where the principle of necessity can be invoked. The necessity that there be continuity in the Parliamentary system justifies, in my opinion, for one to depart from the written word."


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