The controversial appointment of Eddie Fenech Adami as President of the Republic has starkly polarised a great segment of the nation on whether the erstwhile Prime Minister can serve as the unifying force the Head of State should embody. MaltaToday asked a number of opinion-makers and newspaper columnists what they think about the appointment of the President-to-be. Matthew Vella writes.
Fr Rene Camilleri - Lecturer
“I don’t agree. He was head of the Nationalist Party and in the light of these last 10 years, it would be very difficult for him to go beyond the divisions and be representative of national unity. As a politician he was involved in these divisions and it will be very hard for him to override them. I would also add that the public has been manipulated in this planned game of succession.”
Alfred Mifsud - Former MLP candidate
“The role of the President, while having very limited executive authority, carries high moral responsibilities. The person occupying such a role should be perceived as a unifying force capable of using moral suasion to lift national issues above the political battleground and capable of brokering national consensus through his knowledge, experience, charisma and general acceptability.
“An outgoing Prime Minister 17 years in office can never, within a short space of a couple of weeks, have the credentials of being perceived by the Opposition as a unifying force fitting the role of President. Much less fitting for the Presidential post is a person who sought an electoral mandate as a Prime Minister and gave up a five-year mandate before the first year was out, forcing on us a situation where we have a Prime Minister chosen by the party rather than by the people.”
Marisa Micallef Leyson - Housing Authority Chairperson
“I can understand why the Labour Party would find it difficult to accept him as President. I certainly would never accept Dom Mintoff as President. However, in view of what he achieved for the whole country and not for the Nationalist Party only, he has as much right as everyone else to the Presidency. At the end this is government’s choice and he won’t be elected by popular vote. I think that although his views are political and partisan, he will make an excellent President.
What we are seeing now is a similar reaction to when Guido de Marco was appointed President. Many Labour die-hards will not accept his appointment to the Presidency, but I think Eddie will understand this as well and will also seek to build bridges. We all need to build bridges in this country.”
Anna Mallia - Lawyer and columnist
“The self-appointment of Dr Eddie Fenech Adami as President of the Republic reminds me of Louis XIV of France and his famous or infamous words “le loi c’est moi” (I am the law) and of Napoleon when he crowned himself as emperor.
“Like those before him, he also got struck by what I term ‘the menopause of politicians’ and wants to remain in the public life for fear of losing control over his baby – that of Malta's membership in the European Union. He definitely does not represent the symbol of national unity that his Office calls for. I pity Lawrence Gonzi who shall have a tough time trying to remind Fenech Adami that he is no longer the Prime Minister. What a shame that he did not use this occasion to unify the country!”
Austin Sammut - Former PBS chairman
“To be sincere, for a long time now I had been in disagreement with having Eddie Fenech Adami take up the role of President after a political career being Prime Minister for 15 years. Today, however, after seeing those emotional scenes of him presenting his resignation, leaving Castille and watching all those people saluting him outside in the streets, made me more convinced that he should become President.
“I don’t know who the other nominees could be. I don’t believe having Eddie Fenech Adami as President would not be representative of national unity. Most of the previous Presidents were from the political field and served with dignity. The role itself also requires certain political skills. Of course, having someone from outside the political field would also be a good idea.”
Fr Joe Borg - Lecturer
“I have no comment to make.”
Joe Azzopardi - Presenter
“I agree with the appointment 100 per cent. I think the Maltese people should not necessarily understand unity as being in agreement with somebody’s politics: we have to be united as people and as human beings. Politics is about unity and diversity. So it doesn’t make sense that the President should not be a politician.
“I think Fenech Adami qualifies for this post with his political experience and the standing he has abroad. Every person would have an amount of critics who would not support their appointment to the presidency.
“I have no doubt Fenech Adami will rise the presidency to new heights. Although the PN is the party I have voted the least for, I think Eddie Fenech Adami is a person of integrity and he has the qualities for a President.
“As for those who suggest having a President who has not been labelled politically, I can only say these people are the ones who remained silent when injustices happened during the eighties and the nineties. Would these people have the integrity to be President?”
Joe Grima - Former MLP
“I think he deserves it, but I think it’s a mistake. It is obvious that he will be seen to be overshadowing the government. This is how the Presidency in this case would be perceived. He is definitely the man who deserves every honour the nation can give him. In this case it will be a mistake.”
Henry Frendo - Historian
“I don’t think it would be in his interest to accept to become President, and not even in the national interest. Part of this problem is due to the fact we haven’t got an elective President, so it is up to the Prime Minister at this point. But one asks whether there aren’t at least half a dozen candidates from outside the political sphere who are also open-minded, but who also have given their own contribution to the country.
“As a historian I can say that appointing Fenech Adami as President will certainly create a historical precedent: no political party leader ever before became President. I don’t think it will be in his interest, even in the context of his public career. He certainly has a lot of merits and he has changed this country around, but I have to judge this matter on the basis of the wider, national context.”
Lino Spiteri - Former MLP minister
“Absolutely not. A Prime Minister should not move on straight away to becoming President, whoever he is. It would have been ideal to either alternate by having a President who was detached from politics or whose political views are not necessarily close to the government of the day.
“Another option would have to appoint somebody completely outside politics, but with a good working knowledge of what the Presidency requires.”
Pierre Portelli - Former head of NET news
“As I wrote publicly recently, I believe that Eddie Fenech Adami should take his well-deserved rest, as someone who deserves it more than anyone else, instead of burdening himself with the responsibilities of the President. I also think it will be difficult for the new Prime Minister to assert himself when such a big figure as Fenech Adami remains politically accessible. The reason is that in Malta, it is the fashion for so many organisations to take any sort of complaint to the President…this will not help matters. On the other, now that Fenech Adami has been nominated for the post, I cannot but augur him well for the future.
“I still think he is the best figure to represent the people. Since 1987 he has been uniting people, aiding national reconciliation. I am not against him being appointed President for this reason; I couldn’t imagine a better person. I cannot see any tie between those voting for Labour not seeing Eddie Fenech Adami as a person who inspires national unity.”
Daphne Caruana Galizia - Columnist
“I don’t think he should become President. I have held this view before when rumours of his appointment started circulating and I haven’t changed my mind. Notice should be taken of the letters and opinions in the newspaper which have expressed the view that he should not become President. These were expressed by people who admire him and not his enemies or detractors, and this is quite significant.
“In reality becoming President is a demotion, a comedown. The Presidency is largely irrelevant and just ceremonial, much like the Queen in England. That is another reason he shouldn’t do it. It is beneath him.
“The main reason I am against him becoming President is because when a person decides to go, they should go. It means leaving the public eye once and for all. People get tired of seeing the same face. It is time to go, permanently.
“I would also add that he should show some consideration for his wife: she does not want him to do it and she has supported him for the past 30 years.”