President of Malta

President of Malta
President ta' Malta
Presidential standard
George Vella
since 4 April 2019
StyleHis 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
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. 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.

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.


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

  • They are not a citizen of Malta;
  • They hold or have held the office of chief justice or other judge of the Superior Courts;
  • They are not eligible for appointment to or to act in any public office in accordance with articles 109, 118 and 120 of the Constitution.

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 president promulgates laws.
  • The president may dissolve the House of Representatives of Malta acting on the request of the prime minister of Malta or following the passage of a no confidence motion in the Government.
  • The president names the prime minister with the president making his or her decision based on the situation within the Maltese parliament.
  • The president names most members of constitutional bodies (with the assent of the prime minister).
  • The president receives foreign ambassadors.
  • The president may grant a pardon (but not an amnesty) to convicted criminals; the president can also lessen or suppress criminal sentences, acting on the advice of Cabinet or the minister delegated by Cabinet with such responsibility.
  • The president is ex officio chairman of the Commission for the Administration of Justice of Malta.
  • The president is ex officio head of the Maltese honours.
  • The president is ex officio chairman of the Malta Community Chest Fund, a charitable non-governmental institution aimed to help philanthropic institutions and individuals. The president's spouse is the deputy chairperson.
  • The president authorises recognition in Malta of honours, awards and decorations. No title of nobility, honour, award, decoration, membership or office may be used in Malta unless it is authorised by the president. The names of those persons so authorized are published in the Government Gazette.

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.

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 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.

Termination of appointment

The office of president shall become vacant:

  • If the president resigns his/her office;
  • On the expiration of five years from the date of the appointment to that office;
  • If the holder of the office is removed from office by Resolution of not less than two-thirds of the House of Representatives of Malta on the ground of inability to perform the functions of their office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause) or misbehaviour;
  • If the president dies in office.

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. 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.

List of presidents

See also

This page was last updated at 2024-02-22 15:34 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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