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The President's abrogated duty



Due to the highly ceremonial role it occupies, we tend to see the President as simply a figurehead with no functional duties except for fund-raising, and forget that there are a few but very important responsibilities assigned by our Constitution and our Laws on the officeholder.

One of which is the leading role the President as Head of State occupies when an abrogative referendum is called by the people.

Our Parliament in 1996 included a major civil right by allowing the people themselves to ask for a particular legislation to be put to vote through a referendum, a referendum which bypasses both Parliament and Government and which has the power to abrogate that particular law through a majority vote, given that 50% of the electorate cast a valid vote.

The whole point of this right is that it allows the people to take matters into their own hands when they feel that Parliament and Government have not acted according to what they want.

The law makes it clear that since political parties and elected representatives are being bypassed, the people are directly asking the Head of State themselves to abrogate that particular law, and the matter lies solely between the people and the President.

It therefore makes it clear in article 18 (2) of the Referenda Act (Ch 237) that:
"Where the Constitutional Court has decided that a referendum may be held, the President shall fix a day for it, being a date not earlier than three months and not later than six months after the copy of the decision of the Constitutional Court shall have been delivered to the President in accordance with subarticle (1), and the President shall issue a writ in accordance with this Act accordingly."

It was therefore expected that once the verdict of the Constitutional Court was delivered, the Office of the President would have been issuing a release declaring the date set for voting.

Instead, we were faced with pompous Joseph Muscat once again interfering in matters where he should not, deciding a date to serve his political purposes and telling his flock how he wants them to vote.

And where is our Head of State, to whom the signatories made their call? These are the occasions by which we can judge if a President has risen up to his or her role, and not by how much money she manages to collect in l-Istrina. Unfortunately she has utterly failed the test. Because the President's primary role is as guardian of the Constitution and upholder of our laws, and not as chief fundraiser, which noble as may be the cause, is just a side-effect and not the main reason of what her office is there for.


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