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Italians fear return of instability if Mario Draghi quits to become president | Italy

Italians have been having fun with an uncommon interval of political concord – Mario Draghi, the prime minister, introduced decisive, competent management within the midst of the pandemic, and the economic system is rising quick. However that may very well be thrown into jeopardy when parliament elects a brand new president in January.

An opaque ritual described as being akin to the appointment of a brand new pope, the subject is dominating the political debate as the result may go away Italy with a predicament at a vital juncture: ought to Draghi, the previous European Central Financial institution chief credited with restoring stability and confidence within the nation, stay prime minister, or become president?

There are not any official candidates in Italy’s presidential elections. As a substitute, lawmakers forged secret ballots for the seven-year mandate – they will vote for anybody, as long as they’re an Italian citizen and aged 50 or over. Names which have cropped up in earlier elections have included footballer Francesco Totti, actor Sophia Loren, and even porn star Rocco Siffredi. Voting can drag on for a number of rounds earlier than a winner emerges.

Draghi has been often floated because the frontrunner to succeed Sergio Mattarella, who steps down as head of state on 3 February. The 74-year-old hinted final week that he is perhaps readying for the position. At his end-of-year press convention, he responded to questions on his future, saying: “My private future is of no significance. I’ve no explicit ambitions. I’m, if you want, a grandfather within the service of the establishments.”

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The one one who is explicitly pursuing the position, in accordance to the Italian media, is the scandal-tainted former prime minister and chief of Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi.

“It’s extraordinarily unlikely that he’ll get elected however we shouldn’t rule it out,” mentioned Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the London-based analysis firm, Teneo. “If there’s one one who has unparalleled vote-buying abilities, it’s Berlusconi.”

Italy’s president is essentially a ceremonial position, albeit with the ability to resolve political crises, decide prime ministers and name early elections. Mattarella was compelled to step in a number of occasions to resolve crises, together with calling on Draghi to kind a unity authorities in February after the administration led by Giuseppe Conte collapsed.

The timing of the election is delicate. Draghi is taken into account a secure pair of fingers however a transfer to the presidential palace would convey his authorities to an early finish, undermining efforts to enact the reforms wanted to safe instalments from the EU’s post-pandemic restoration fund, of which Italy is the most important beneficiary.

“It’s the primary time that this election has been economically related,” mentioned Piccoli. “The nation misplaced 10% of GDP as a result of of the pandemic, and now, with Draghi, there’s this new confidence… the query is whether or not this could final past the presidential election.” Within the worst-case situation, Draghi’s promotion may convey the overall election ahead by a yr. If early elections are held, polls persistently point out {that a} coalition of the far-right events, the League and Brothers of Italy, and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, may win.

Silvio Berlusconi has ‘unparalleled vote buying skills’.
Silvio Berlusconi has ‘unparalleled vote shopping for abilities’. {Photograph}: Yara Nardi/Reuters

Voting is anticipated to start within the third week of January, however solely on three events has a brand new president emerged within the first spherical. “There will likely be back-door offers, heaps of posturing and random names talked about each different day,” mentioned Piccoli. “However, traditionally, all of the names talked about within the lead-up to the vote are there to get burnt. I’d be shocked if anybody talked about up to now is the true deal, with the exception of Draghi.”

Different names bandied about within the media embrace the present justice minister Marta Cartabia, the previous prime minister Romano Prodi, one other former prime minister and present European commissioner for the economic system, Paolo Gentiloni, and Gianni Letta, a long-time adviser to Berlusconi.

If Draghi does stand, he would possibly bide his time till the second or third spherical. “Even for somebody like Draghi it’s not a on condition that he can get elected within the first spherical, and so he wouldn’t need to undermine his standing by placing himself up for the job too early,” mentioned Piccoli.

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