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NEWS | Wednesday, 28 January 2009

George Abela had been proposed for President in 2004

Lawrence Gonzi had first proposed George Abela for the presidency back in 2004, ahead of Eddie Fenech Adami, this newspaper can confirm.
Well-placed sources privy to the dealings between both Gonzi and then Opposition deputy leader Charles Mangion, confirmed that the prime minister first communicated Abela’s name back in 2004.
Gonzi then had just been elected leader of the Nationalist Party, after the resignation of Eddie Fenech Adami in March 2004.
The Labour party neither objected nor accepted the suggestion to nominate their former deputy leader for party affairs.
But Abela was never nominated in the end.
Abela had resigned from the Labour Party in 1998 upon the party general conference’s decision to go for early elections. Sources said Sant did not express any disagreement with his nomination in 2004.
Labour had proposed its own list of nominees, namely former Ombudsman Joe Sammut, Yvonne Micallef Stafrace, wife of former Labour minister Joe Micallef Stafrace, and Joe Curmi, a little known former senior civil servant.
Despite the absece if any disagreement between the two sides, it was Eddie Fenech Adami who would be appointed president in 2004. The Prime Minister communicated his decision to opt for Fenech Adami to then Labour deputy leader Charles Mangion. Gonzi had insisted that the decision was final and non-negotiable.
Gonzi faced a great deal of flak for his choice, while Fenech Adami publicly acknowledged the resentment surrounding his appointment in his inauguration speech.
Abela, who was nominated for the presidency by Gonzi three weeks ago, instead found widespread support unlike his predecessor.
Both Gonzi and Abela, who have known each other from their university days, are considered to be very good friends. Abela himself enjoys a great deal of respect from several PN exponents.
But his nomination also found disagreement within the PN parliamentary group, which was not consulted by Gonzi before the name was made public on Sunday 11 January.
Despite his popularity, few people knew Abela had been part of the 1987 electoral commission which refused to adjust the gerrymandered electoral districts which previously ensured a majority of seats for Labour back in 1981, and again in 1987. Just months before the 1987 general election, the commission shot down a minority report authored by the three PN-nominated representatives on the commission, pointed out how the district boundaries had been left unchanged and ensured Labour a majority of seats.


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