Sergio Mattarella could be re-elected as Italy’s president, ending days of a farcical parliamentary voting process that has exposed deep divisions within the governing coalition.
Mattarella has been asked by leaders of the ruling parties to stay on as head of state after they failed to reach agreement on a candidate who could secure broad support from the 1,009 parliamentarians and regional representatives electing the president.
The 80-year-old, who is due to end his seven-year mandate on 3 February, has repeatedly said he does not want a new term. However, he may have succumbed to the pressure, especially given that Mario Draghi, the prime minister, reportedly told him on Saturday that he needed to remain in post “for the good and stability of the country”.
Mattarella consistently racked up a high number of votes from parliamentarians during the first six rounds of voting and secured 387 in the seventh round on Saturday morning. Now with the explicit endorsement of the political parties and Draghi, Mattarella is expected to secure the 505 votes required to win in a second round of voting later on Saturday.
“Italians do not deserve any more days of confusion,” said Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party, hours after he had strongly backed someone else for president. “Let’s reconfirm President Mattarella … and Draghi, and immediately get back to work this afternoon. The problems of the Italians won’t wait.
Draghi, who has been widely credited with restoring political stability in Italy and, at least until now, keeping his broad coalition in line, was tipped as the frontrunner for president, but the ruling parties were reluctant to endorse him over fears his promotion would trigger early elections.
Matteo Renzi, who leads the small centrist party Italia Viva, said maintaining Mattarella as president and Draghi as prime minister was “the only way to leave Italy safe from the outlandish madness and lack of political direction”.
Giuseppe Conte, the leader of the Five Star Movement, the largest party in parliament, said: “The Mattarella option has found wide acceptance.”
Mattarella and Draghi are popular among Italians. But the perception of the “status quo” in the ruling majority prevailing is “superficial reading”, especially after a week of political drama that reflected a “lack of leadership, trust and courage”, said Wolfango Piccoli, a co-president of the London-based research company Teneo.
“The whole political system failed the presidential election test,” Piccoli said. “The ruling coalition emerges weaker and deeply divided.”
Francesco Galietti, the founder of Policy Sonar, a Rome-based political consultancy, said: “What is clear to me is that things are no longer the same. Trust within the ruling majority, and vis à vis Draghi, is undermined. Sadly enough, fighting will continue and possibly escalate.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism