The Malta Independent 23 February 2024, Friday
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Sovereignty of the majority must be respected in talks on President’s successor – Abela

Monday, 12 February 2024, 15:46 Last update: about 10 days ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that the sovereignty of the majority must be respected when it comes to talks between the government and opposition on who is to succeed George Vella as President of the Republic in April.

Vella’s term as President concludes in less than two months – on 4 April specifically – and for the first time ever his successor must receive cross-party backing in order to be appointed.  This is the product of a reform to Malta’s constitution which saw any candidate for the presidency needing a two-thirds majority in order to be appointed.

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Asked by journalists whether discussions with his Opposition counterpart Bernard Grech on Vella’s successor had begun, Abela said that he doesn’t feel it opportune to discuss the matter given that Vella’s term is not up yet.

He also noted that both he and Grech had agreed on a principle of confidentiality so that “neither of us try in some way to capitalise on this process.”  He said that this confidentiality covers not just any names put forward for the position by either side, but also on the procedural details of the whole process – such as whether talks have started or not.

Abela said that he had already indicated what he believes the “credentials and qualifications” of the next President should be.  Abela had said in an interview that Vella’s successor should be “progressive” and should be someone who can steer away from conservatism and also foster a sense of unity within the country.

“I think if we treat this matter with respect and seriousness within the context of the new law, I don’t think we should have a problem finding someone who is idoneous for this important role,” Abela said.

He said that he is convinced that he can sit down with Grech and that with “good sense on both sides” an agreement can be reached.

However, he said that while the requirement for a two-thirds majority is now entrenched in the constitution, “one must also respect the equally important democratic principle: the sovereignty of the majority of the people.”

“It doesn’t mean that we are going to impose one position or another, and I think I’m clear on this, but I think that this principle must be respected,” he concluded.

In response, the Nationalist Party said that the law is clear that there has to be an agreement between both sides of the House.  “No party has the right to arbitrarily dictate before discussions have even begun,” the PN said.

The party said that its position is clear: the next President should be a person to unite the country’s people, irrespective of where they come from.

Abela was also asked about the method he used to pay for his €180,000 land in Xewkija and said that he paid using a cheque.

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola earlier on Monday asked the Standards Commissioner to investigate the declaration of assets submitted by Prime Minister in 2023.

In his letter, Cassola pointed out that in spite of acquiring land in Xewkija in 2022, which cost €180,000, this was not reflected in the declaration of assets the PM submitted to Parliament in March last year.

Abela said that the land was bought through several separate contracts and that everything he declared is aligned with the declaration of assets he provided and added that he has no problem defending what he’s saying.

 

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