George Vella, former Labour minister, will be Malta’s next President

Former Labour foreign minister George Vella, 76, tipped to be the next President of the Republic after Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca's term ends in April

Vella is considered to be a mentor to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, having actively supported his 2008 leadership bid against former co-deputy leader George Abela
Vella is considered to be a mentor to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, having actively supported his 2008 leadership bid against former co-deputy leader George Abela

The former Labour deputy leader and minister George Vella, 76, will be Malta’s 10th President of the Republic, this newspaper has learnt.

A senior government source told MaltaToday that the decision to appoint Vella, who left office as foreign minister in 2017 after deciding not to run in the snap elections of that year, had been taken. “He is the right person for the job, and a respected figure,” the source said.

Initially reluctant to accept the offer, Vella was said to have now accepted the post and replace outgoing President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca when her term is up in April. Coleiro Preca was the second woman to be appointed to the post.

Like Coleiro Preca, Vella belongs to a generation of Labour politicians who worked under all post-independence party leaders.

Vella is considered to be a mentor to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, having actively supported his 2008 leadership bid against former co-deputy leader George Abela.

Vella was deputy prime minister in the Alfred Sant administration of 1996-1998.

A popular family doctor from Zejtun, he was first elected to parliament in 1976 and served in the House of Representatives until 2017. Though elected from the Labourite stronghold of Zejtun, which at one point was notorious for its loyalty to firebrand Wistin Abela, Vella was respected for his loyalty, moderate views and strong opposition to thuggery in politics.

His first ministerial position was as foreign and environment minister when he also served as deputy prime minister during the short Sant premiership.

Last Sunday, Nationalist leader Adrian Delia called on the government to appoint a president from the Opposition benches.

Of Malta’s nine presidents, only the first was not a former politician – Anthony Mamo, the Chief Justice at the time, who was appointed when Malta became a republic in 1974.

All other presidents of the republic - Anton Buttigieg, Agatha Barbara, Censu Tabone, Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, Guido de Marco, Eddie Fenech Adami, George Abela, and Marie Louise Coleiro Preca - were former senior government ministers, MPs or occupied posts within a political party. Fenech Adami was the only prime minister to go on and become president.

Pawlu Xuereb was acting president for two years between 1987 and 1989.

READ ALSO: Malta's next president: The people have their say

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