[WATCH] Update 3 | President George Vella sworn in

George Vella is Malta's 10th president of the republic • Archbishop urges Vella to defend Malta's heritage during mass ahead of swearing in

President George Vella saluting the people in St George's Square from the Palace balcony after taking his oath of office. He is flanked by the Prime Minister, the Opposition leader and now former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. (Photo: James Bianchi)
President George Vella saluting the people in St George's Square from the Palace balcony after taking his oath of office. He is flanked by the Prime Minister, the Opposition leader and now former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. (Photo: James Bianchi)
President George Vella sworn in

Updated at 4:30pm

George Vella is the 10th President of Republic, succeeding the second female president, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

Vella took the oath of office in a special session of Parliament held at the Palace in Valletta, which will be his official office for the next five years.

"I, George Vella, solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of Malta, and will, to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Malta. So help me God."

George Vella taking his oath of office in a special session of Parliament held at the Palace in Valletta. (Photo: DOI)
George Vella taking his oath of office in a special session of Parliament held at the Palace in Valletta. (Photo: DOI)

Upon that oath and upon kissing the crucifix, held by Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia, Vella was sworn into office. His wife Miriam, children and family members were present for the swearing in.

He then delivered his inaugural speech, outlining the priorities of his presidency.

Vella, a former family doctor and foreign minister, had earlier left his home in Zejtun with wife Miriam Vella to a crowd of emotional locals who he greeted and embraced.

Locals described him as a good, hardworking and upright man.

Zejtun residents lined the streets
Zejtun residents lined the streets
Primary school children from Zejtun wait outside to greet the President-elect
Primary school children from Zejtun wait outside to greet the President-elect

READ ALSO: Zejtun residents give President-elect warm send-off

After the ceremonial mass at St John's Cathedral in Valletta, members of the House of Representatives proceeded to the Palace, followed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Vella.

Former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca entered the palace last. She was escorted in the presidential car and by mounted police. 

People and children line streets of Zejtun to greet George Vella

She was greeted with a formal salute by the Armed Forces of Malta presided over by Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi outside the Palace. The marching band of the Armed Forces played the Maltese national anthem and Coleiro Preca inspected the guard of honour for the last time.

Vella was nominated by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his appointment was approved by Parliament on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: George Vella's first comments before leaving his house in Zejtun

George Vella and wife Miriam arriving at St John's Co-Cathedral (Photo: DOI)
George Vella and wife Miriam arriving at St John's Co-Cathedral (Photo: DOI)

Archbishop warns against kleptocracy

A rush to seek profits risks creating a society that can slide into kleptocracy, where power is in the hands of the greediest, Archbishop Charles Scicluna warned.

He delivered the message at the pontifical Mass at St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta on the occasion of George Vella’s swearing in as president.

Scicluna used the occasion to drum home the point that economic prosperity of a country was put on solid foundations when its leaders embraced the values of wisdom and righteousness.

The new president was urged to defend Malta's heritage. "The President of the Republic has the privilege to be the Head of State. We want to see in him a defender of Malta’s heritage in every sense – cultural, historical, artistic, architectural and natural."

Scicluna said the reputation of the country strengthened and grew depending on whether the values of integrity, justice and solidarity were made a priority.

“If the first or only thing we seek is gain or profits, democracy becomes a kerdocracy - a society based on a rush for profit - and from there on it is easy to slide into a kleptocracy, a society where power is concentrated in the hands of the greediest," Scicluna said.

The mass was particularly significant because senior members of different religious denominations read out messages for peace.

What happened in Parliament

The PN voted for Vella’s nomination but regretted the Prime Minister’s decision to ignore its call to appoint someone from the Opposition to the post. The two PD MPs chose to stay away from Tuesday’s vote as a protest over government’s decision to ignore calls for the president to be elected by a two-thirds majority.

Who is George Vella

A former foreign minister and Labour Party deputy leader, Vella will succeed Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

A popular family doctor from Żejtun, Vella was first elected to parliament in 1976 and served in the House of Representatives until 2017.

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

He is considered to be a mentor to 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.

An eagle-eye shot of St George's square where the official Armed Forces salute was performed for the President
An eagle-eye shot of St George's square where the official Armed Forces salute was performed for the President

Though elected from a Labourite stronghold, 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 Sant’s short premiership.

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 were former senior government ministers, MPs or occupied posts within a political party. Eddie Fenech Adami was the only prime minister to go on and become president.

Well-wishes for the President

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission, said of the new president that he is a trustworthy individual.

"I am personally happy about this because I really think that as a person beyond the political profile, he is someone you can trust," she said, adding that Vella will bring European wind to Malta and vice-versa push a Mediterranean interest and attention towards Europe.

CEO and Founder of consulting firm MaltaBusiness wished him a good tenure and suggested that he was a man of plenty of political experience.

Malta Employers Association released a statement congratulating Vella on his appointment as president. "He is a respected politician who has extensive experience in foreign affairs, and also has the qualities to listen to people and speak his mind objectively about many social and economic matters," it said, adding that it was looking forward to collaborate with him in the future.

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark to Italy, Malta and San Marino, Erik Lorensen, took to Twitter to say that the good cooperation between Malta and Denmark would continue on the event of the new president sworn in.

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