|President of Malta |
President ta' Malta
|Residence||San Anton Palace|
|Appointer||House of Representatives|
|Term length||Five years|
|Inaugural holder||Sir Anthony Mamo|
|Formation||13 December 1974|
|Succession||Line of succession|
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. 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.
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.
A person shall not be qualified to be appointed president if:
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).
Whenever the office of president is:
1. Temporarily vacant; and
2. Until a new president is appointed; and
3. 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.
Contrary to popular misconceptions and unlike European continental jurisdictions the Constitution of Malta does not allow the incumbent president to extend his appointment in any circumstances including in the event that on the expiration of the five years from the date of appointment, a replacement is not appointed by the House of Representatives in accordance with the required two thirds majority. The Constitution even goes further to exclude the incumbent president from reappointment (the only office-holder to be burdened with such a restriction) in line with the republican model.
Hence, on the expiration of the five years from the date of appointment, the office of the president becomes automatically temporarily vacant and until a new president is appointed (if not so appointed because the required two-thirds majority is not achieved in Parliament) beforehand, an acting president would need to be appointed by the prime minister after consultation with the leader of opposition. Without such an appointment, the speaker of the House of Representatives automatically becomes the acting president.
This creates an anomaly in the Maltese constitutional system since without an anti-deadlock legislation in the Parliament of Malta to appoint a replacement, the incumbent Government of Malta which does not have the required two-thirds super-majority would be politically incentivised not to reach a compromise for a new appointment. Ultimately, the acting president under the Maltese constitutional system wields all the powers of a sitting president of Malta and is not restricted in any shape or form in terms of his legal authority. In fact, Malta already had an acting president from 1987 to 1989 and normal operations of the Maltese state were not impacted.
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.
The official office of the president is the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta. Other presidential residences include:
The presidents of Malta used the national flag as their presidential standard prior to 12 December 1998, 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.
The office of president shall become vacant:
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 distiguished 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. Furthermore, in view that a 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.
Main article: List of heads of state of Malta