Left: President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca; Right: Former minister George Vella
A meeting of the steering committee discussing constitutional reform was postponed this morning amid uncertainty on whether President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca will continue chairing it after the end of her tenure.
In a recent interview with MaltaToday, Coleiro Preca said that she intends to continue presiding over the reform when her term expires next month and that she already discussed this with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
However, Illum reported yesterday that former minister George Vella, one of the favourites to succeed Coleiro Preca, has refused to take up the presidency if the role no longer includes constitutional reform. As a result, the newspaper said that Coleiro Preca is not expected to continue chairing the committee once her term is up.
Now separate sources have confirmed with Lovin Malta that a steering committee meeting had been scheduled for today but was cancelled. A spokesperson for the President was not immediately available for comment.
Representatives of Partit Demokratiku pose with the President after a constitutional reform discussion
Joseph Muscat has repeatedly pledged to revise the Constitution into a Second Republic but the process is dragging its feet. After the 2013 election, former PN MP Franco Debono was entrusted to chair a constitutional reform convention, but then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said he had reservations about Debono and called for the President to chair it instead.
The process stalled for five years until in November 2018, Coleiro Preca was indeed appointed chairperson of a new steering committee to discuss constitutional reform, with the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party each being represented by three people. The PL is represented by former deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and parliamentary secretary for reforms Julia Farrugia Portelli, while the PN is represented by former minister Tonio Borg, MP Chris Said and Amy Camilleri Zahra.
It has since held a number of meetings, including with Alternattiva Demokratika and Partit Demokratiku, as well as the NGO Repubblika.
Franco Debono, who had proposed several constitutional changes during his tenure as MP, didn’t take kindly to being sidelined.
Franco Debono used to be in charge of the official debate on constitutional reform
“Since I refused to contest the election with Labour in 2017, Muscat has changed,” Debono told MaltaToday. “Joseph has given this role to Coleiro Preca. He didn’t even call me to tell me…
In a separate interview with The Malta Independent, he also suggested Muscat had offered Coleiro Preca the role because he wanted to keep her quiet so as to stifle her ambitions to run as an MEP candidate.
Debono also questioned whether Coleiro Preca’s appointment was meritocratic, given that the tragic Paqpaqli crash of 2015 had taken place under her watch.
“Let’s not forget the Paqpaqli incident, in which people were seriously injured. Should responsibility have been shouldered by the President? In view of what happened, is the President the ideal person to lead the convention? I will not answer that question myself, but what happened to meritocracy?”