Abela and Grech in first face-to-face meeting to discuss next president

The Prime Minister and Opposition leader hold first meeting to discuss President George Vella’s replacement when his term ends in April • New president requires two-thirds parliamentary approval

Opposition leader Bernard Grech (left) and Prime Minister Robert Abela
Opposition leader Bernard Grech (left) and Prime Minister Robert Abela

Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech held their first face-to-face meeting this week to discuss the appointment of the next president, MaltaToday has learnt.

Abela and Grech have a frosty relationship but sources privy to the talks said the meeting was “friendly”. It is unclear whether the two leaders discussed specific names in this first encounter.

President George Vella’s five-year term ends on 4 April and his successor will have to be appointed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority, a new constitutional proviso.

This will be the first time that the new rule will be used and requires cross-party consensus. Previous presidents only required a simple majority to be appointed, which meant the government always got its way.

In January, Grech had complained that talks on the new president had not even started and last week Abela was coy when asked by reporters on the matter.

The Prime Minister would neither confirm nor deny that meetings were held, insisting that the confidentiality of the talks applied to the proposed names and the procedures themselves.

Abela has said though that the next president should have a progressive outlook to reflect the will of the people as expressed in the election.

Last year, MaltaToday had reported that Grech informed his parliamentary group of three names he would be proposing – former acting president and ex minister Dolores Cristina; sitting magistrate Joe Mifsud; and Caritas PRO Marica Mizzi.

If no consensus is reached, Vella will stay in office until the parties agree on his replacement. However, if the president decides to step down, an acting president can be appointed and if not, the Speaker of the House will fulfil the presidential duties until a new president is finally chosen.

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