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President of Malta
President ta' Malta
Presidential standard
Incumbent
Myriam Spiteri Debono
since 4 April 2024
StyleHer Excellency
ResidenceSan Anton Palace
AppointerHouse of Representatives
Term lengthFive years
Inaugural holderSir Anthony Mamo
Formation13 December 1974; 49 years ago (1974-12-13)
SuccessionLine of succession
Salary€71,033 annually[1]
Websitehttps://president.gov.mt/
List of presidents of Malta at San Anton Palace seen in 2014

The president of Malta (Maltese: President ta' Malta) is the constitutional head of state of Malta. The president is indirectly elected by the House of Representatives of Malta, which appoints the president for a five-year term and requires them to swear an oath to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution.[2] The president of Malta also resides directly or indirectly in all three branches of the state. They are part of Parliament and responsible for the appointment of the judiciary. Executive authority is nominally vested in the president, but is in practice exercised by the prime minister.[3]

Establishment of office

The office of the president of Malta (Maltese: President ta' Malta) came into being on 13 December 1974, when Malta became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state and Queen of Malta (Maltese: Reġina ta' Malta), and the last governor-general, Sir Anthony Mamo, became the first president of Malta.

Qualifications

A person shall not be qualified to be appointed president if:

Assumption of office

Before assuming office the nominee must take the oath of office before the House of Representatives of Malta.

The oath reads: I, (name of nominee), solemnly swear/affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President (perform the functions of the President) of Malta, and will, to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Malta. (So help me God).

Temporary vacancy

Whenever the holder of the office is absent from Malta, on vacation, or is for any reason unable to perform the functions conferred upon them by the Constitution, those functions are performed by an individual appointed by the prime minister, after consultation with the leader of the opposition. If such individual has not yet been appointed, the speaker of the House of Representatives performs the duties of the president.

Notwithstanding the above, on the expiration of five years from the date of the appointment to the office of President, the office does not become automatically vacant. The Constitution states that until a two-third majority resolution is achieved in the House of Representatives, the person occupying the office of the President of Malta, shall, in any circumstance, remain in office until the resolution is achieved. With no anti-deadlock provision, it will need to be seen how this provision will be applied in practice.

Role of the president

Among the powers of the president:

The role of the president is detailed in a publication (in Maltese) called Il-Manwal tal-President tar-Repubblika written by former president Ugo Mifsud Bonnici.[4]

Official residences

The official office of the president is the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta. Other presidential residences include:

President's flag

The presidents of Malta used the national flag as their presidential standard prior to 12 December 1988, when a proclamation established the presidential flag of Malta. The flag is flown on the president's official residences and offices and on all occasions at which they are present.[6]

Termination of appointment

The office of president shall become vacant:

The veto anomaly

The Constitution of Malta nominally does not accord any legislative veto powers to the president. In fact, the Constitution states that when a bill is presented to the president for assent, he shall without delay signify that he assents. The Constitution nominally therefore ensures that the legislative programme of a democratically elected Government of Malta is not shackled by a president without a democratic mandate. The Constitutional law creates this narrative that the president is distinguished from the individual office-holder and the office-holder should set aside his personal opinions in exercise of his/her duties as president. In practice, sitting presidents have nevertheless deviated from this duty and have in instances threatened to resign from their office if presented with certain bills for assent contrary to their personal opinions or have privately lobbied for changes.[7] Furthermore, in view that an incumbent Government of Malta which does not wield a two-thirds majority in Parliament would not be in a position to remove the president of Malta if he refuses to signify that he assents to a bill, the president may in practice be afforded a legislative veto. This would be a constitutional crisis as a president without a democratic mandate would effectively exercise higher political power than the democratically mandated Government of Malta. It would not be clear whether this anomaly would be subject to judicial review by the Courts of Constitutional Jurisdiction in Malta both because of the immunities of the president of Malta and also because of the judicial interest of the sitting Government of Malta in the matter.

See also


References

  1. ^ "Leġiżlazzjoni Malta".
  2. ^ Article 50 and the Second Schedule of the Constitution of Malta
  3. ^ Articles 51, 96 and 78 of the Constitution of Malta
  4. ^ "Il-Manwal tal-President tar-Repubblika" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Grand Master's Palace reopens to visitors after years of extensive restoration". 12 January 2024.
  6. ^ "Flags, Symbols, and their uses". About Malta. Government of Malta. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Watch: Abortion law: 'Everyone knows my position' – George Vella". 2 December 2022.