Opposition leader Adrian Delia has proposed three Nationalist ‘stalwarts’ for the post of President, Times of Malta has learnt.

Though neither the government nor the Nationalist Party would comment on the matter, bar that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Dr Delia met a few days ago, it is believed Lawrence Gonzi, Tonio Borg and Louis Galea were the names proposed.

A spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister said that, in line with the Constitution, Dr Muscat had embarked on consultations with the Opposition leader in connection with the appointment of a new President.

Likewise, a spokesman for Dr Delia would only say that the two had met to discuss the appointment of the next President.

According to the Constitution, the President is appointed by resolution of the House of Representatives for a period of five years. President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca’s term of office ends in April.

Various names have been mentioned over the past weeks and months as speculation increased on who could succeed Dr Coleiro Preca. Recent press reports have consistently indicated that the most likely candidate is former Labour deputy prime minister George Vella.

However, sources close to Castille said the Prime Minister had still to officially communicate his choice to the Labour parliamentary group, which was expected to meet “soon”.

The Prime Minister had still to officially communicate his choice

Political observers from both sides of the political divide deem it highly unlikely that Dr Muscat would ultimately go for any of the three names suggested by Dr Delia, even though such a move would not be unprecedented.

In fact, when he was prime minister, Dr Gonzi had successfully moved the appointment of former Labour deputy leader George Abela for the Presidency.

It was also pointed out that, to his credit, Dr Muscat had managed to convince his MPs when Dr Delia nominated George Hyzler, a former Nationalist parliamentary secretary, for the post of Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.

Some observers argued that doing the same in the case of the new President could earn the Prime Minister brownie points among traditional PN voters at a time when the party was rife with internal dissent.

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On the other hand, it was also pointed out that Dr Muscat was also facing some internal criticism, especially among Labour diehards who were complaining that loyal party supporters were being given second preference vis-a-vis switchers who joined Labour when it was returned to power in 2013.

A move towards appointing a President from the PN camp could create more problems for Dr Muscat, even risking negatively affecting the very strong electoral majority Labour enjoyed, just four months from the local and European elections, the observers noted.

“Choosing a President nominated by Adrian Delia and discarding George Vella may be too big a blow for Joseph Muscat notwithstanding his record trust rate among cross-party voters,” a veteran political pundit remarked.


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