Presidential election in Italy: relapse into old vices

Status: 01/27/2022 04:48 a.m

Three ballots and still no new head of state: It is not only in Italy that the lack of understanding about the power games in the search for a new president is growing. Is the country gambling away its fresh reputation as an anchor of stability?

By Jörg Seisselberg, ARD Studio Rome

The frustration grows and it feels like a relapse into old vices. Last month, the British business magazine The Economist named Italy “Country of the Year 2021”. The impression: everything is suddenly running smoothly there, the economy is growing, the vaccination campaign is working and there is political stability. Currently, however, Italy is treading water again: three attempts to elect a new head of state in the plenary hall of the Chamber of Deputies have failed.

Jorg Seisselberg
ARD-Studio Rom

The confusion is back, and Enrico Letta, head of the Social Democratic PD, is self-critical in recommending himself and the rest of the political elite: “We have to lock ourselves in a room with bread and water and throw away the key until we find a solution. ” The country could not “endure days and weeks with votes in which there are mainly abstentions”.

The third round of voting also failed with a bang on Wednesday. Most of the votes cast by the 1009 electors (members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies and representatives of the regions) were again “schede bianche”, abstentions.

fickleness with consequences

Letta’s social democrats are not innocent of the standstill. Although voting has been going on since the beginning of the week, the PD has not yet put a proposal on the table. For weeks, the Social Democrats were considered the main sponsors of a move from the incumbent Prime Minister Mario Draghi to the presidency.

But now doubts seem to be growing. The Bolognese professor Gianfranco Pasquini also emphasizes: There are good reasons to let Draghi continue as head of government: “The greatest advantage would be that Draghi in the office of prime minister would be able to complete the measures he had taken against the pandemic and for economic reconstruction, for example regular election date next year” – with the existing government team and the agreed program.

As president with less influence

As President, on the other hand, he would be the pointman in government crises, but would otherwise have more representative tasks. Pasquino thinks he’s observing a rethinking of Draghi: “I think at a certain point he really believed that the parties wanted to elect him president and by saying that he was ‘a grandfather in the service of the institutions’ he signaled his willingness .”

But now, says Pasquino, he has the impression that Draghi is becoming “more aware of the risks that a change entails for Italy. And since Italy is close to his heart, he is taking these risks into account.”

Italy’s Prime Minister Draghi was considered the favourite. But he too is aware of the limited powers of the President.


Salvini smells the morning air

While Draghi’s option is shaky and the center-left parties stand without a proposal, Matteo Salvini is making a name for himself on the right-wing camp as pulling the strings. The head of the Lega has set the goal: After the last four presidents from the centre-left, someone from the other political side must now take the highest office: “After 30 years, I think it’s the right of the liberal, conservative, moderate , identitarian spectrum that has the relative majority in Parliament to present proposals.”

The focus is on Casellati

According to Italian media reports, a candidate that Salvini is currently negotiating with other party leaders is Senate President Elisabetta Casellati. For politics professor Pasquino, a candidacy as a political declaration of war: “Casellati has always been extremely close to Berlusconi’s positions, she clearly represents a political spectrum, in my view she does not have the necessary political independence.” In addition, she has no standing at European or international level, she is practically unknown there.

PD leader Letta warned Salvini of a showdown in the fourth vote, in which 50 percent plus one is enough to vote. If the centre-right parties go it alone, Letta makes it clear, the current coalition would be called into question. The chaotic struggle for the new head of state threatens to shake the government.

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