MaltaToday survey • Kate Gonzi is favourite for president amongst PN voters

Although majority want non-partisan head of state, respondents find it hard not to mention politician for next President of the Republic

James Debono
20 January 2014, 12:00am
Favoured for President by Nationalist voters: Kate Gonzi first, then her husband Lawrence
Favoured for President by Nationalist voters: Kate Gonzi first, then her husband Lawrence

A MaltaToday survey held in the past week shows that 57% of respondents would like government to break with tradition and appoint a president with no partisan affiliation.

But when asked who they wish to be their next President, only 1.3% mentioned a candidate hailing from civil society.

The survey confirmed the popularity of current President George Abela, whose performance is judged positively by a massive 93%. His term ends in 2014.

Respondents were asked to name someone who would be ideal to occupy the role of president. Respondents were not prompted by any names.

The survey shows Kate Gonzi as the most mentioned name, followed by her husband Lawrence Gonzi, mainly thanks to the convergence of Nationalist voters around these two names.

On the other hand, Labour voters were more fragmented in their choices, with Edwin Grech - former minister and father of Karen Grech, murdered by letter bomb in 1986 - emerging as the most favoured candidate among Labour voters.

Grech is closely followed by former Speaker of the House Miriam Spiteri Debono and foreign minister George Vella. Interestingly, 4.4% of Labour voters favour the appointment of Lawrence or Kate Gonzi.

Only 1.3% opted for a name with no partisan affiliations. These included Din l-Art Helwa president Simone Mizzi, former European Court of Human Courts Judge Giovanni Bonello (who is ineligible due to his post in the judiciary) and Caritas director Mgr Victor Grech.

Three percent opted for the reconfirmation of George Abela, something which would require a change in the Constitution as presidents presently can only serve one term.

Respondents were not given a choice of names and were asked to name someone spontaneously. Forty eight percent could not name anyone. Among Labour voters, 61% could not mention a name. 

A president from civil society?

The survey shows that only 16% would like the next president to hail from the party in government, as was normal practice between 1976 and 2009 before Lawrence Gonzi appointed George Abela, a former Labour deputy leader who had fallen out with former Labour leader Alfred Sant.

Abela was also a leadership contender in 2008, when he emerged as the second most preferred choice after Joseph Muscat.

Nationalist administrations between 1987 and 2008 had always appointed top party stalwarts, namely Censu Tabone, Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, Guido de Marco and Eddie Fenech Adami. With the exception of chief justice emeritus Sir Anthony Mamo, Dom Mintoff also appointed party stalwarts as presidents. These included Anton Buttigieg and Agatha Barbara.

Only 16% would like the next president to hail from the Nationalist political camp, as requested by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil. The overwhelming majority (57%) would like a non-partisan president. 

Not surprisingly, PN voters are the most likely to opt for a president hailing from the Opposition. But while 40% of PN voters would like a president from the Opposition, 50% would prefer someone with no political affiliation.

PL voters are the most likely to favour a candidate from government.  But while 31% of Labour voters favour a president from government's side, 57% would prefer someone with no partisan affiliations.

The fact that only 1.3% could mention a name from civil society suggests that it would be difficult to find a suitable national figure who is genuinely perceived as non-partisan to fit in the role of president.

Two-thirds of respondents are indifferent on whether the next president should be a man or a women while 18% would prefer a woman. Still, with the exception of Kate Gonzi, no woman was mentioned by more than 5% of respondents. So far Malta has only had one of Malta's eight presidents was a woman.

A popular president

The survey confirms the great popularity of President George Abela which suggests that his cross-party appeal and attempts to reach out to the people have paid off.

Significantly, nobody deemed his performance as a negative one while 93% of respondents deemed his performance positively.

Throughout his presidency, Abela took a high profile in charity events like l-Istrina and the President's fun run, opened more areas in Sant Anton to the public, and largely steered away from political controversy.

Nationalist voters were more nuanced in their appreciation of Abela than Labour voters. 

While 98% of Labour voters judged Abela's performance of president positively, his approval falls to 78% among PN voters.  Nineteen percent of PN voters deemed Abela's performance as so-so.  But none of the PN voters considered his performance a negative one.


675 respondents were contacted by telephone after being chosen from telephone directories.  400 accepted to be interviewed.  The results were weighed according to gender and age balance of general population.  The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4.9.

James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...