Coleiro Preca's nomination as President not 'tokenism'

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says nomination of social policy minister as President goes beyond tokenism, insists she'll lead social reform.

The nomination of social policy minister Marie Louise Coleiro Preca as President goes beyond appointing a female Head of State, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.

Addressing a press conference at the Valletta Waterfront on a cold and wet day, Muscat said Coleiro Preca's nomination "is not a matter of tokenism," insisting that she "possesses all the characteristics to elevate the presidency to new levels and push forward a social agenda for the benefit of the country."

Opting for Coleiro Preca sent a strong message that women have an important role to play in society, Muscat said. Admitting that it was no easy choice to remove one of the best ministers in his Cabinet, the prime minister said he was confident Coleiro Preca would “exceed all expectations” and act as a catalyst for social reform and unite the country.

Asked whether the intention to extend the Presidency's role requires a change in the Constitution, Muscat said that he was given advice that there was no need to change the law.

"Marie Louise Coleiro Preca will take on a leadership role but will not have any executive powers," he said, adding that the new president will be expected to suggest policies and not pilot them.

However, the prime minister added that Coleiro Preca's presidency will indicate what changes are necessary in the forthcoming Constitutional Convention.

Muscat did not exclude increasing his own responsibilities once he carries out a Cabinet reshuffle at the end of the month.

Asked whether he would take on the health portfolio once Coleiro Preca becomes President, Muscat said he was weighing up all options.

“I’m currently taking everything into consideration and I will then announce the necessary changes to make the best use of the talents at my disposal. Unlike my predecessor I'm not short on talent,” Muscat said, taking a swipe at former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi who had lamented with US Ambassador Molly Bordonaro that the elected Nationalist MPs offered a limited talent pool from which to select ministers.

During the press conference convened on the first anniversary of his government, Muscat also insisted that anchoring the LNG-storage vessel anchored inside Marsaxlokk’s bay would be safer that anchoring it outside the bay because of navigational factors. However, failed to answer questions on who had given this advice.

Listing his government’s achievements, Muscat said “in these past 12 months we worked hard but there’s much more to do,” underlining his government’s unwavering commitment to make Malta a land of opportunity, innovation and equality.

Among the achievements he highlighted in this morning’s press conference, Muscat emphasised the importance of reducing the energy tariffs, the records reached in tourist arrivals, the creation of 6,000 new jobs and the “silent revolution in education.”