Updated 8.20pm

Notary Myriam Spiteri Debono will be Malta’s next President after Parliament unanimously approved her nomination on Wednesday.

Members of Parliament banged on their desks as the Speaker read out the 75-0 vote in favour of her nomination. Malta has 79 MPs.

Spiteri Debono will assume the role of Malta's 11th President of the Republic on April 4, succeeding George Vella, who was praised by both sides of the House. 

Spiteri Debono will be Malta's third woman president, after Agatha Barbara and Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. She will also be Malta's third Gozitan president, after Anton Buttigieg and Censu Tabone. 

Former Nationalist MP Francis Zammit Dimech will be acting president in her absence, following a deal struck between Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech. 

A notary by profession, Spiteri Debono was a Labour activist and electoral candidate in the 1980s and 1990s. She served as the first, and so far, the only woman speaker of parliament from 1996 to 1998 during Alfred Sant’s tenure. 

Spiteri Debono was born, raised and received a primary education in Gozo. She went on to read for a degree in English Literature and Linguistics from the University of Malta and eventually also graduated as a Notary Public.

She also served as chair of the Cooperatives Board and was one of the first members of the Gender Equality Commission when the body was first founded.

Spiteri Debono also served as president of the party’s Women’s League.

The PN had nominated Spiteri Debono for the Standards Commission position back in January 2023, but she had said at the time that she was not interested in the post. 

During a Victory Day speech in September 2021, Spiteri Debono paid tribute to the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, calling on the nation to “redeem ourselves anew” and commit to the necessary reforms in the wake of the assassination.

Spiteri Debono, 71, will be the first president to be appointed following the 2020 constitutional reform on the nomination of the president.

Following this reform, Parliament can no longer appoint the President with a simple majority but needs at least two-thirds of the House to vote in favour of the nomination.

Four MPs not present for vote

Spiteri Debono was the unanimous choice of the House, and that was reflected in the motion tabled to nominate her. That motion was submitted by Prime Minister Robert Abela and seconded by his counterpart, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech.

All MPs present voted in favour of her nomination. 

Miriam Dalli (PL), Aaron Farrugia (PL) and Chris Said (PN) were also not present. All three were abroad and unable to make it back in time for the vote, party spokespeople told Times of Malta.

Independent MP Rosianne Cutajar, who also missed the vote, told Times of Malta she is abroad.

‘A voice of equality’ - Prime Minister Robert Abela

Abela recalled his time working with Spiteri Debono and praised her for her composure during her time as parliamentary speaker.

“Despite her time as speaker during a political time which was not easy, she would say what she had to say, but she always got her message across strongly and respectably,” he said.

He said that due to her notary background, she has a strong understanding of the Constitution and would be “safeguarding” it as president. 

He also described her as a person who was never afraid of progress and always sought change. 

Apart from this, Abela went into detail about how even outside of politics, Spiteri Debono was always ready to "open her door and help others". He described Spiteri Debono as a “voice of equality” and said that she also helped women who were in a vulnerable situation. 

“She was never one to seek the limelight, or who liked to hear her voice all the time, but what she had to say was said, and said with elegance.”

Grech: She is always ready to help

On his part, Grech quoted a part of Spiteri Debono’s 2021 Victory Day speech and recalled how that day, he thought that she had the qualities to serve in high office. 

“She is an empathetic person, one who is always ready to help, who loves to help through teaching and listening to others,” Grech said.

He said that he believed Spiteri Debono would prove to be a president who helped Malta move forward and bring people together.

He also thanked the Prime Minister for the three meetings they had to discuss the nomination. 

Two individuals who work in the interest of Malta

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola took to social media to congratulate both Spiteri Debono and Zammit Dimech. 

“Two people who worked in the interest of Malta and Gozo in their public life,” she said. 

“As a young woman who was interested in politics, I remember following Myriam Spiteri Debono in her role as Speaker of Parliament. Her sense of calm and maturity were crucial in that turbulent time in the Maltese Parliament.”

“I know Francis more intimately. A friend, who is genuine and who loves his country. For us youths, he was a beacon of how politicians should be.”

She said both are beacons of a political class who work with correctness.

‘You have our support’- Repubblika

In a statement ahead of her appointment, NGO Repubblika congratulated Spiteri Debono and expressed their appreciation for Parliament’s consensus on such a decision.

“Although too often our politics lacks maturity and the pursuit of the national interest, the appointment of Myriam Spiteri Debono is an episode that gives us hope,” the statement read. 

“Myriam Spiteri Debono has served with loyalty and decency in public life and we strongly believe that this appointment will continue to reflect these values of her career.”

Repubblika also mentioned her speech on Caruana Galizia back in 2021 and recalled she had appealed for journalists' work to be respected as journalism was the fourth pillar of democracy.

This, Repubblika said, was a rare, if not unique, recognition in context of an official state ceremony.

“We assure Myriam Spiteri Debono of our support in her new mission.”

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