The Nationalist Party will be voting in favour of George Vella’s nomination for President of the Republic in the "national interest", leader Adrian Delia said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a political activity in Mosta, Dr Delia said the party had invited the government to show that it had the national interest first and foremost and nominate a candidate from the opposition camp.

Dr Delia said the PN made taken such a step many years ago with the appointment of George Abela. It had also voted in favour of Marie Louise Coleiro Preca’s appointment.

Last month, Dr Delia proposed Lawrence Gonzi, Tonio Borg and Louis Galea for the post.

Dr Delia said the PN had also asked for the President to start being appointed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

However, the Prime Minister insisted on Dr Vella’s nomination.

In spite of this, the PN’s parliamentary group this evening agreed that, in the national interest, it should vote in favour of the former foreign affairs minister's nomination.

The decision was immediately welcomed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who said in a tweet he had no doubt Dr Vella was the right person for the job and would continue to unite the country.

The Prime Minister made the nomination public through a tweet on Tuesday.

Dr Vella, who will turn 77 next month, will be Malta's 10th president.

In 1974, the majority of Opposition MPs had backed Malta’s first president, Sir Anthony Mamo. Nevertheless, a number of them, including the late former prime minister George Borg Olivier, had voted against. Subsequently, between 1976 and 2008, the Opposition voted against or abstained.

In 1976, the PN Opposition had voted against but did not call for a division over the appointment of Anton Buttigieg. Then, in February 1982, Opposition MPs were not present in the Chamber as the PN had boycotted Parliament following the perverse result of the 1981 general election.

In 1989, Labour, under the leadership of former prime minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, had vehemently opposed the nomination of Ċensu Tabone to the point that it even called for a division and boycotted his presidency.

In 1994, Labour voted against the nomination of Ugo Mifsud Bonnici but did not demand a division. In contrast, it had fiercely criticised the appointment and called for a division in the cases of Guido de Marco in 1999 and Eddie Fenech Adami in 2004.

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