MONDAY, April 15, 2024

Sergio Mattarella re-elected as Italy's president with wide majority

Sergio Mattarella re-elected as Italy's president with wide majority

Italian President Sergio Mattarella was elected to a second term, Lower House Speaker Roberto Fico announced late Saturday, after the parliament gathered in a joint session and concluded its eighth round of voting.

ROME, Jan. 29 -- Mattarella was reconfirmed with a broad majority, namely 759 votes in favor from a total of 983 lawmakers and regional representatives actively taking part in the ballot.

"I wish to thank lawmakers and regional representatives for the faith they have put in me," Mattarella, 80, said in a declaration broadcast live from the Quirinale presidential palace immediately after receiving the official notice of his re-election.

"The difficult days of this election, taking place during the serious health, economic, and social emergency we are still going through, call for a sense of responsibility and for the respect of the parliament's decisions," he said.

"These conditions require (us) to not avoid duties, which must prevail over other thoughts and different personal perspectives," he added.

Mattarella's candidacy emerged prominently at the end of a tense week in which the two major political blocs -- the center-left and the center-right -- failed to agree on a different common candidature.

As a consequence, seven rounds of voting were held since Monday, all delivering inconclusive results and exposing deep fractures within both coalitions.

After the leaders of the largest parties from center-right and center-left acknowledged the stalemate on Saturday morning, and agreed on Mattarella's possible second term, a direct request was submitted to the president by all parties' whips.

After a brief talk with Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Mattarella made himself available, despite having repeatedly made clear prior to the election that he would not serve a second term.

The re-election of a head of state is rare in Italy. So far, only Giorgio Napolitano, Mattarella's predecessor, had served a second term, and only for less than two years.

All major political leaders thanked Mattarella for his availability. "This is a great news for Italians, and I am grateful to the president for choosing to oblige to the strong will expressed by the parliament to reconfirm him to a second term," Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a note.

Enrico Letta, leader of center-left Democratic Party, hailed Mattarella for taking a choice "of great generosity toward the country."

Meanwhile, Letta noted the fact that parties were unable to find an alternative common candidature should not be neglected.

Right-wing League's leader Matteo Salvini said he was "comforted" by Mattarella's choice. "I also feel very serene, because I have made (prior to the re-election) all possible proposals."

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, also a leading figure of the Five Star Movement, told reporters the re-election was "a victory for the country."

The pledging ceremony to reconfirm Mattarella is expected to take place next Thursday, when his first term officially ends.

The following is a profile of Mattarella.

Mattarella, 80, was born in Palermo, the capital city of Italian island region Sicily.

In his earlier years, after graduating in law at the University of Rome, he qualified as a lawyer and taught parliamentary law at the university of Palermo until 1983 when he was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies, or the lower chamber, for the first time.

He became deputy prime minister in October 1998 and Minister of Defence from December 1999 to the June 2001 elections. He was a member of the Chamber of Deputies until 2008 and a member of Italy's Constitutional Court from 2011 to 2015. He was elected president of Italy on Jan. 31, 2015, and his first term will officially end on Feb. 3.

Mattarella has repeatedly showed a strong moral authority in the past seven years, during which several coalition governments collapsed.

He has proved a reassuring figure for the country during the past two difficult years of COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, he ultimately stepped in to avert early general elections after then Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned, and appointed former European Central Bank President Mario Draghi as prime minister.