Italy re-elects Mattarella as president to end political stalemate

Italy re-elects Mattarella as president to end political stalemate

Italian lawmakers have re-elected incumbent president Sergio Mattarella as head of state, ending a week-long stalemate over the selection and ensuring the survival of Mario Draghi’s government.

The re-election of Mattarella, an 80-year-old lawyer and judge, for a second seven-year term came as Draghi’s fragile national unity government was in growing danger of collapsing, amid tension over an increasingly bitter presidential election process.

Mattarella, who pulled Draghi out of retirement last year to appoint as prime minister, had indicated he was unwilling to serve a second term, despite popular calls for his re-election.

But with Rome’s political climate turning poisonous, Draghi met Mattarella at an official function on Saturday morning and urged him to reconsider in the interests of political stability.

Draghi later called political leaders to encourage them to support Mattarella for a second term, an Italian government official told the Financial Times.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum called on Mattarella at his lavish presidential palace, the Quirinale, on Saturday afternoon, shortly before the eighth round of voting, to formally appeal to him to serve a second term.

When Mattarella crossed the 505 vote threshold needed for victory, the presidential electors burst into applause, and a long standing ovation.

“The absolute priority is to secure the country, providing stability through the figure of Mattarella at the Quirinale and Dear Prime Minister, and avoiding at all costs plunging into a period of total chaos, ”said Daniela Sbrollini, a senator from Italia Viva, a small centrist party, shortly before the vote.

“Asking Mattarella to remain at the Quirinale after he had expressly asked not to be elected, shows a certain fragility and weakness of politics,” she said. “But with this stability perhaps the political system can be strengthened.”

A lawmaker from the Five Star movement, who asked not to be named, said: “Everyone across the political spectrum knew very well that Mattarella’s re-election was the only solution that would not hurt anyone, not even Draghi. It is the only solution that crystallizes the current equilibrium. ”

Mattarella’s re-election will please Italy’s business community and international markets, which had been keeping a close eye on events, fearing that a messy, divisive presidential election could derail the country’s reform momentum.

Italy is set to be the largest recipient of funds from the EU’s € 750bn recovery program, but must meet an ambitious reform timetable to get each tranche of funds. The program’s toughest reforms were front-loaded into the two years that it was assumed Draghi would be prime minister.

Draghi himself was considered a highly suitable potential successor to Mattarella, but it was feared that his ascent to the presidency could trigger the collapse of the government and propel Italy to early elections.

“This looks like a great outcome for businesses because it ensures stability and we can count on Draghi to see through the recovery plan, ”Said one Milan-based executive who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the eighth round of voting.

“Clearly it’s a very bad outcome for Italian political leaders who were unable to find an alternative to Draghi as prime minister, and Mattarella as president.”

Former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who now serves as the EU’s commissioner for the economy, tweeted after the result that Mattarella’s re-election was “a very good stability and responsibility.” He added in Latin “per aspera ad astra,” or ‘through hardship to the stars. “

Alessandro Zan, a member of the center left Democratic Party, said that, “in a situation that risked spiraling out of control, the appeal to President Mattarella was the last card to pull Italy out of the chaos and get back to work.”

Italian lawmakers filed a deluge of blank ballots in voting rounds earlier this week as they attempt to forge a consensus on a presidential candidate. But the political atmosphere soured on Friday, as Matteo Salvini, leader of the rightwing League, began pushing to elect favored political nominees as president over the objects of leftist coalition partners.

Enrico Letta, secretary-general of the Democratic Party, had warned that any unilateral nominations, over the objects of government allies, would “represent the most direct way of blowing everything up”.

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