The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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Parliament unanimously approves Myriam Spiteri Debono as Malta’s next President

Albert Galea Wednesday, 27 March 2024, 19:00 Last update: about 18 days ago

Parliament unanimously approved notary Myriam Spiteri Debono as Malta’s next President in a plenary sitting on Wednesday evening.

The notary – who served as Malta’s first woman Speaker during the Alfred Sant administration between 1996 and 1998 – received backing from both the government and opposition benches, and will now be sworn in as the 11th President of Malta on Thursday 4 April, succeeding George Vella.

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All 75 of the MPs present in Parliament on Wednesday voted in favour of the appointment.

Addressing Parliament after filing the motion for her appointment, Prime Minister Robert Abela said that this is a historic day for it is the first time that a constitutional reform implemented in 2020 was used.

Under this reform, the President of the Republic had to be approved by a two-thirds majority of Parliament, meaning that cross-party consensus was necessary.  Previously, only a simple majority was required.  This meant that – while the last three Presidents all had unanimous backing of Parliament anyway – the government of the day could choose whoever it likes as President without any consequence.

“The scope was to modernise and renew the democratic process in our country,” Abela said of the reform.

Speaking about Spiteri Debono, Abela said that those who know her know that she has a number of attributes which make her ideal for the role of President.

“I understand that each President will give their unique stamp on the presidency, and I am not one who believes that a President should have one style or another – that depends on the person and their experience and priorities. But there are credentials which I believe that are essential,” he said.

He said that first and foremost a President must foster national unity.  Spiteri Debono, he said, proved that she has these qualities in how she handled herself as Malta’s first woman Speaker between 1996 and 1998, a time which had its challenges.

He continued that she had always communicated her message convincingly but in such a manner that it did not reduce anybody’s respect to her or her authority as Speaker.

Abela continued that knowledge of the Constitution is another important point, and perhaps this is why almost all President have come into contact with politics in their lives, before adding that he had resisted the idea that they had to look beyond the political class to reach an agreement on a successor for George Vella.

“She is a person who has never feared progress,” Abela said of Spiteri Debono.

He noted how she had always opened her doors to students for placements in order to quality as notaries, and was a good teacher, and a kind-hearted person who helped the vulnerable even by providing services for free.

“I have no doubt that her Presidency will be a point of reference, as was her work for the emancipation of women.  She helped everyone, but more so women in a vulnerable situation,” Abela said.

He concluded by quoting a part of her speech on an anniversary of Sette Giugno back when she was Speaker: “It is a walk which together we need to continue; a journey which needs more wisdom, calmness, commitment, and which must be led by the reality of what we need so that our country can have more wealth, and help in the fostering of peace.”

He concluded that these words still hold true today.

On his part, Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech quoted part of Spiteri Debono’s speech in 2021 on the occasion of Victory Day: “We must redeem ourselves anew. We need to come together, as we have in the past, to make necessary changes, some of which we've already started to make.”

“These are words which, as soon as I heard them, I immediately remarked in my head that for me, she has the qualities – even because I knew of her integrity, precision and studiousness – to serve in a high position of authority as approved by this Parliament,” Grech said.

“She has empathy, knows how to love by helping, by teaching, and by listening.  So I augur that those words which she said less than three years ago mean she will be the President to help us redeem ourselves again…  that she can be the person to unite us,” he continued.

Grech thanked the Prime Minister for the cordiality in the discussions which took place in order to ascertain Vella’s successor, saying that a reform or legal amendment is only as good as the people who are responsible for making it work.

“We don’t only augur her to be a President with empathy, as we have no doubt she will be, but for her to be the President who will help us redeem ourselves once more and to help the people come together, as it is only in this manner that the people can continue to grow, mature, and be proud of their past, and of the future they still has to write,” Grech concluded.

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