George Vella was on Tuesday approved as Malta's next President during a parliamentary sitting that was boycotted by the Democratic Party. All those present for the sitting voted in favour of the nomination.
The former foreign minister, who also served as deputy leader of the Labour Party was nominated to replace Marie Louise Coleiro Preca by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who stated that few politicians could boast of as long and as distinguished a record of service as Dr Vella.
"He was there to serve people," he added, attributing Dr Vella's care for workers and patients to his upbringing.
Dr Muscat added that Dr Vella was one of very few politicians to have refused power. Dr Vella had been thrust into the spotlight by Labour Party leader Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, who had touted him as his successor, a role which Dr Vella had not pursued.
Opposition leader Adrian Delia noted that the government had not taken the Opposition's suggestion to nominate somebody from outside the Labour Party, at a time when national unity was needed.
Aside from the respect enjoyed by Dr Vella, there was the need for somebody who enjoyed the unanimous support of the House to accede to the Presidency.
Dr Delia said that, although the Opposition would be voting for Dr Vella's nomination, it would be moving a constitutional amendment in the coming days to ensure that Presidents could only be appointed or removed with the support of a two-thirds majority vote.
The Opposition Leader added that the President bore a collective moral responsibility even though the Presidency did not have executive powers. In the coming months, this responsibility would be tested when it came to decisions where the President would have the last word, he said, adding he was convinced that Dr Vella was ideal to safeguard the country’s moral fibre.
The House also approved a motion to recognise the work done by outgoing President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. Presenting the motion, Dr Muscat said that the broad appreciation for the work carried out by President Coleiro Preca was a sign of political maturity.
When she was originally touted for accession to the Presidency, he said, it was commonplace to hear that the Government would be losing a key defender of the marginalised and voiceless members of society.
However, the country had become richer thanks to the way in which she promoted matters of conscience and kept the Government on the straight and narrow, as she had remained vociferous in her defence of migrants and children, among other groups.
Dr Muscat expressed his certainty that the Foundation for Social Wellbeing, which would be a key element of her legacy, would continue its work under her stewardship.
Dr Delia said that what the Presidency had gained through the appointment of President Coleiro Preca, the government had lost, a loss which continued to be felt by many.
Cabinet had lost an important voice which spoke out in favour of the weak and powerless, at a time when this voice was most needed.
The President had shown herself to have departed from mere service to the state or to politics, and she had a powerful voice which, he hoped, she would continue to use in defence of the voiceless. He was sure that she would continue to offer her energy and enthusiasm in service of the country.