Italian lawmakers appear ready to re-elect incumbent Sergio Mattarella as head of state, which ended a week ago pat over selecting and ensuring the survival of Mario Draghi’s government.
The pressure to re-appoint Mattarella, an 80-year-old lawyer and judge, to a second seven-year term comes as Draghi’s fragile government of national unity is in growing danger of collapse, amid escalating tension over the presidential election process.
Mattarella, who retired Draghi last year to be named prime minister, had earlier indicated he did not want to serve a second term, despite popular calls for his re-election.
But as the political climate in Rome became poisonous, Draghi met with Mattarella at an official ceremony on Saturday morning and invited him to reconsider in interest political stability.
Draghi later called on 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 Quirinale presidential palace on Saturday afternoon, just before the eighth round of voting, to officially invite him to serve a second term.
“The absolute priority is to secure the country, ensuring stability through the character of Mattarella at the Quirinale and Draghi as Prime Ministerand avoiding immersion in a period of total chaos at all costs, ”said Daniela Sbrollini, a senator from Italia Viva, a small centrist party.
“Mattarella’s request to stay in the Quirinale after he explicitly asked not to be elected shows a certain fragility and weakness in politics,” she said. “But with this stability, perhaps the political system could be strengthened.”
A Five Star MP, who asked not to be named, said: “Everyone on the political spectrum knew very well that Mattarella’s re-election was the only solution that would not harm anyone, not even Draghi. It is the only solution that crystallizes current balance. ”
Mattarella’s re-election will satisfy the Italian business community and international markets, which have been following developments closely, fearing that a split presidential election that is causing divisions could disrupt the country’s reform momentum.
Italy should be the largest recipient of the 750 billion-euro EU recovery program, but must meet an ambitious reform schedule to receive every tranche of funds. The most difficult program reforms were introduced in the two years in which Draghi was assumed to be prime minister.
Draghi himself was considered a a very suitable potential successor Mattarelli, but feared his rise to the presidency could cause the government to collapse and push Italy into early elections.
“This looks like a great outcome for companies as it ensures stability and we can count on Draghi to go through recovery plan“Said one Milan executive who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the eighth round of voting.
“Clearly, this is a very bad outcome for Italian political leaders who could not find an alternative to Draghi as prime minister and Mattarelli as president.”
Alessandro Zan, a member of the center-left Democratic Party, said that, “in a situation that risked spiraling out of control, an appeal to President Mattarelli is the last ticket to pulling Italy out of chaos and back to work.”
Italian lawmakers submitted a flood of blank ballots in early voting rounds earlier this week trying to reach a consensus on the presidential candidate. But the political atmosphere worsened on Friday as Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League, unsuccessfully tried to elect a favored political candidate for president because of objections from left-wing coalition partners.
He was also preparing for a similar gambit with another potential candidate, in collaboration with the leader of the Five Star Movement.
Enrico Letta, secretary general of the Democratic Party, warned that such unilateral nominations, with objections from government allies, “would be the most direct way to blow everything up”.