Abela shuts down speculation: Lawrence Gonzi will not be president

The Prime Minister says a former party leader can never be a unifying figure that is expected from the presidency

Former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi
Former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi

Robert Abela has categorically ruled out proposing Lawrence Gonzi as the next president, effectively shutting down growing speculation that irked many within the Labour Party’s grassroots.

The Prime Minister said in an interview with The Sunday Times of Malta that a former prime minister and party leader cannot be a unifying figure that one expects from the presidency.

The change in presidency is not expected before April 2024 when President George Vella’s term ends but his replacement will, for the first time, have to be appointed by parliament with a two-thirds majority.

Asked point blank whether he will consider former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi as president, Abela replied: “He’s definitely not a person who would unite the country.”

The Prime Minister refuted any comparisons with the situation back in 2009 when his father, George Abela, was made president by Gonzi.

“A president needs to unite the nation. A leader of a political party can never unite a nation, just like Eddie Fenech Adami couldn’t be a uniting figure… I am a leader of a party with a clear interest to win elections and automatically that makes me a political nemesis of Nationalist Party supporters; can I ever aspire to become president and inspire national unity? The nature of my job, even if I try to be the most moderate person, rules me out,” he replied.

There has been growing speculation, especially within the PL’s grassroots, that Abela could be considering Gonzi for the presidency when Vella’s term ends. The speculation also prompted former Labour deputy leader Joe Brincat on Facebook last summer to say that appointing Gonzi would be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Gonzi was prime minister between 2004 and 2012. He oversaw Malta's adoption of the euro in 2008, going on to win the general election that same year by a relative majority that gave him a one-seat advantage in parliament. His administration between 2008 and 2012 was characterised by an international economic recession and financial crisis and internal revolts from backbenchers that ultimately led to the government's downfall in December 2012 when Franco Debono voted against the budget.