The prime minister has shot down the possibility of Lawrence Gonzi becoming president, saying he is not a unifying figure.

Robert Abela was replying to questions by Times of Malta in his first ever interview to the newspaper.

The prime minister has ruled out nominating Lawrence Gonzi president.

Asked whether he would consider appointing the former prime minister as president, Abela said that Gonzi was "definitely not a person who would unite the country". 

Gonzi had appointed the prime minister's father, George Abela, as president in 2009, the first time that a president was appointed from a rival political camp. George Abela had previously served as deputy leader of the Labour Party.

But Robert Abela said comparisons with his father did not hold water.  

"A president needs to unite the nation. A leader of a political party can never unite a nation, just like Eddie Fenech Adami couldn’t be a uniting figure," the prime minister said.

When contacted on Sunday, Lawrence Gonzi said he had no comment to make.

All of Malta's presidents have so far been politicians except the first one, Sir Anthony Mamo, who was a former chief justice and Governor-General.

In terms of recent legislation, the appointment of the next president, due by 2024, has to follow approval by two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives.

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