Wednesday, October 5

Italy and the election of the President of the Republic


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On January 24, the elections for the President of the Italian Republic will take place; political parties are divided and in the debates many names and hypotheses arise.

In Italy, after the crisis of traditional parties such as Christian Democracy, Silvio Berlusconi’s debut in politics in 1994 is remembered for the formation of a center-right coalition that successively produced an American-style bipolarization of Italian politics.

This coalition was a sum of different parties that came together in an alliance and that, for the first time, had a premier candidate who asked for the vote on the basis of a single program presented before the elections.

At that time, the creation of a center-right coalition led by President Berlusconi forced all the leftist parties to come together to compete on a par and generate the aforementioned bipolarization of Italian politics.

In the history of our politics, this innovative idea has remained incomplete at the moment in which it has failed to transform bipolarization into bipartisanship.

The main reasons why Bipartisanship has not been achieved are that the parties of the coalitions have been in conflict with each other because of the leading role of their leaders; that the electoral laws have not been adapted to the new political configuration; and that the bipolarization has not been followed by a presidentialist reform -American style- of the Italian Constitution.

In the last ten years, not only has bipartisanship not been reached but, on the contrary, there has been more fragmentation, determining a difficult governability of the country.

In these years, Italy has had several government crises due to internal conflicts within coalitions, weak majorities, the development of new populist parties or parliamentary crises that have been resolved with difficulty in Parliament itself without elections.

It should be remembered that the Italian Republic is a parliamentary republic, that is, everything passes through the two branches of Parliament and is based on the division of powers.

In the Italian Constitution, for example, the powers of the President of the Republic and the President of the Government are different.

Simplifying, the President of the Government has the power to propose the ministers and to govern, and the President of the Republic, among other relevant powers indicated in the Constitution, occupies the presidency of the Supreme Council of Defense and that of the Superior Council of the Judicial Power, and can sign and promulgate laws. It also has the power to consult after a national election the Representatives of Parliament; he can elect after the elections whoever he considers can form a majority in Parliament; can appoint, if there is a majority, the president of the government in charge and the list of ministers at the proposal of the same; and, in the event that the majority that supports the Government disappears, the President of the Republic can terminate the legislature, check if there is an alternative majority, and, if not, dissolve Parliament and call new elections.

This last hypothesis has been the one that has made Mario Draghi receive the commission to form the Government. At a time of widespread crisis, but particularly difficult for a highly indebted Italy, Draghi’s presidency has been the demonstration of the importance of the role of the President of the Republic but also the evidence of the difficulties and divisions of politics.

The current government is supported by all parties with the sole exception of Fratelli d’Italia. Draghi’s leadership, his charisma and credibility at the international and financial levels have been a guarantee of stability and operational decision-making, despite the constant conflict between the political forces of the same majority.

The Italian Government is carrying out a pragmatic, balanced policy aimed at managing the pandemic and with a productive use of European funds.

On January 24, the term of President Sergio Mattarella will end and the voting will begin to elect the new Italian Head of State. The new president will be elected by the 1,008 members of the two Houses of Parliament in a joint session. As this election approaches, the permanent political competitions between parties are becoming more pronounced.

If the President of the Republic is not elected in the first three votes, in which a simple majority is needed, any hypothesis could be possible.

At the moment, apart from Mario Draghi, the only official candidate is Silvio Berlusconi, representing the center-right. The candidacies of the rest of the formations are not yet known.

The situation is evolving and there are several issues on the table: Parliament -given the delicate health and political situation- could ask Mattarella to remain in office and it would be necessary to see if he would accept; if in the event that Draghi were elected to the Presidency of the Republic, the Parliament would elect a new Head of Government or if they would call elections; and if the president were not Draghi and were another personality elected by a majority other than the one that currently supports the Government, if the Government and Draghi would go ahead.

These complexities are creating movements in the parties that could change the current political landscape of the country. A strong temptation is returning to break the bipolarization of politics that, on the occasion of the presidential elections, could determine new alliances.

We must not forget that there is strong resistance from parliamentarians to go to the elections because, according to the last reform of 2019, the next Parliament will have 345 fewer deputies and senators. The elections of the President of the Republic can then become a test for new political designs.

In conclusion, perhaps there could be a change in the electoral law towards a ‘proportional’ system; or create a coalition of moderate parties to form a political center that adds a majority to the left or to the right depending on the electoral results; or that, depending on the historical moment, the vote focuses more on the economic or the social. We will see.

I believe that it is in the interest of Italians to have a credible President of the Republic at a national and international level, and at the same time I also believe that it is in the interest of Italians that the good work of the current Government continue to consolidate the positive economic results achieved so far.

It remains to be seen whether the solution that will be found will be adequate to the many challenges that Italy faces. We Italians hope so.

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