The Malta Independent 16 August 2022, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: A sign of things to come

Wednesday, 29 June 2022, 09:48 Last update: about 3 months ago

Last week the government announced that University Professor Frank Bezzina had been named as Acting President, a role he will fill each time President George Vella is abroad.

Over the past few days, Bezzina took over the position for the first time as Vella flew to Qatar on an official visit.

The appointment, as is usually the case in anything that happens in Malta, drew some controversy. The Nationalist Party said that the appointment had been made without any consultation from the government. For its part, the Office of the Prime Minister replied that a letter sent by Robert Abela to Opposition Leader Bernard Grech on the matter had not been replied to. The PN later accused Abela of refusing to communicate.


In any case, the decision has now been made. Dolores Cristina, who had served as Acting President for the past nine years, regularly replacing first George Abela, then Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, and more recently Vella, will no longer be assigned to cover for the Head of State.

This takes us to the appointment of Frank Bezzina, Pro-Rector of the University of Malta, and author of academic studies, apart from being a visiting professor in several universities abroad.

Bezzina is not a politician, has no connection with any political party, and so his appointment as Acting President of the Republic could be a sign that we are moving in the direction of having a Head of State who does not come with a political history.

Except for Sir Anthony Mamo, Malta’s first President, who was appointed in 1974 when Malta became a republic, all other nine Presidents were former politicians. Most of them came from the political party that was in power at the time, with one notable exception – George Abela, the Prime Minister’s father, who was appointed to the post when the Nationalist Party was in government. George Abela was a former Labour Party deputy leader when Nationalist PM Lawrence Gonzi picked him in 2009.

Similarly, all acting presidents were former politicians. These include Albert Hyzler and Paul Xuereb, who both served as interim heads of state in the 1980s, the first for just 50 days, and the second for just over two years. Others who, like Dolores Cristina, were called in from time to time to take on the role of acting president when the incumbent was away, also had a long political career before taking on the task.

So the appointment of Bezzina could be a step in another direction. Every five years, when the President’s term is about to expire, there is talk of a possibility of choosing someone who does not come from politics. But, in the end, the selection falls on a politician.

George Vella’s term comes to an end in less than two years’ time.

With Bezzina’s appointment as Acting President, talk of a possibility that Abela will be appointing a non-politician to Head of State will probably gather steam.

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