Lawmakers re-elect Mattarella as Italy’s president

Rome, Jan 29 (EFE).- Sergio Mattarella was re-elected as Italian president on Saturday hours after agreeing to serve a second term in the face of the inability of the political parties to reach a consensus on who should succeed him in what is a largely ceremonial post.

Parliament burst into extended applause when it was announced that an absolute majority of the 1,009 electors – members of the Senate and lower house and regional delegates – voted to retain Mattarella as president for another seven years.

The ratification came on the eighth round of voting since the process began last Monday.

Scheduled to step down Feb. 3, the 80-year-old jurist had previously said he wanted to retire and spend more time with his family.

But after six days of failed attempts to elect a new president, representatives of the main parties – with the exception of the rightist Brothers of Italy – went to Quirinale Palace on Saturday with hopes of persuading Mattarella to change his mind.

“President Mattarella told us that he had other plans for his future,” Sen. Julia Unterberger said after the meeting. “But amid the (current) situation he said that if he needed to lend a hand, he would be there. He made himself available.”

The only previous Italian president to be elected to a second term, Giorgio Napolitano, was likewise reluctant to extend his tenure in 2013 and resigned two years later.

While Prime Minister Mario Draghi had expressed a willingness to accept the presidency, the most important parties rejected that idea as destabilizing, since it would require the formation of a new government.

“Italians don’t deserve more days of uncertainty,” Matteo Salvini, head of the right-wing Liga party, said. “We call for Mattarella to continue in the Quirinale and Mario Draghi in the government.”

Former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose Five-Star Movement is the largest bloc in Parliament, said that ex-European Central Bank chief Draghi is the only person capable of ensuring unity.

Though the duties of the president under normal circumstances are ceremonial, in times of political crisis, the authority to dissolve Parliament, nominate a prime minister and block the formation of a weak or unstable government gives the head of state a decisive role.

Mattarella was the prime mover in the creation of the current government with Draghi as premier. EFE


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