Correspondent in Rome
Silvio Berlusconi, 85 years old, withdraws from the race for the presidency of the Republic. This has been communicated in the meeting that the leaders of the center-right have held electronically. On behalf of Berlusconi, who was not present, the senator from Forza Italia Licia Ronzulli, very close to the leader of Come on Italy, communicated to the allies of the center right the decision of the former prime minister: “We will make a joint proposal with the center right to the presidency of the Republic, to obtain the maximum possible consensus.”
Berlusconi’s note highlights that the prime minister, Mario Draghi, should not be the successor of the President of the Republic, Sergio Matarella, who will leave office on February 3, at the end of his seven-year term.
“Mario Draghi must remain in his post because he is doing an excellent job and must complete it,” Berlusconi stressed in his note.
The leader of Forza Italia also highlighted that he had verified the existence of consensus for a possible race for the presidency of the Republic. He thanked the support received and reiterated that “resignation due to national responsibility.”
In fact, although he points out that he had a parliamentary consensus, Silvio Berlusconi is withdrawing because he did not have a sufficient number of votes to become president of the Republic, in the election that will begin next Monday, in a joint session of the Chamber of deputies and the Senate. Of the total possible votes, 1,009, the center right has about 450 deputies. In the first three ballots, it is necessary to obtain two-thirds of parliament to be elected president. From the fourth vote, it is enough absolute majority, half plus one. In other words, Berlusconi would have needed to have 505 votes on the fourth ballot. His own allies have verified that the leader of Forza Italia did not have those numbers. In addition, the center left had vetoed him, considering him “unfit” to hold the position of head of state, taking into account his judicial and political past, with a notable conflict of interest.
Meloni wants elections
Immediate has been the reaction of his allies. “Berlusconi’s decision has been fundamental. It provides a great service to Italy and to the center right, which will now have the honor and responsibility to make proposals without vetoes from the left”, said the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini.
For her part, the leader of the Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, has agreed with Berlusconi in his rejection of Draghi as head of state: «The most important thing is the unity of the center-right coalition. We have made a gesture of generosity for this unit. We say no to Draghi for the Quirinal». In reality, Giorgia Meloni does not hide her desire for an early election.
The center right has about thirty votes more than the center left in parliament. Hence, he considers that he has the right to make a candidacy proposal, without it being vetoed by the center left. But this coalition rejects that right and considers that the decision on the candidate should be shared, because no group has a sufficient majority. The positions are distant and it will be difficult to find a shared candidacy.
Political confusion is great today in Italy. The political forces are divided between those who want to see Draghi in the presidency of the Republic for the next seven years, and those who prefer that he continue as head of the Government until the next general elections, scheduled for the spring of 2023. For now, with the withdrawal of Silvio Berlusconi, realism has prevailed.
In recent months, Mario Draghi has been seen as the favorite candidate for the Quirinal. But now some parties consider that the presidency of the Republic should be held by a politician. In a certain way, they see Draghi, due to his experience and international prestige, as a figure who could become a kind of commissioner above the political parties, something that the Constitution Italian, being a parliamentary republic. These parties reject a presidential republic and prefer that Draghi remain at the head of the Government for another year, because, furthermore, it is a difficult period due to the emergence of the Covid and the development of the Reconstruction plan, in which Italy will invest some 220,000 million euros until 2026. On the other hand, other political forces, such as the Democratic Party, and also business media, estimate that the country would benefit from the stability and guarantee that could offer Mario Draghi as President of the Republic for seven years.
It already seems very difficult for there to be an agreement between the political parties to propose Draghi as president of the Republic before the vote begins in parliament on Monday afternoon. Only if after the first three ballots a president is not elected with a two-thirds majority, the political parties could opt for Mario Draghi from the fourth ballot. The former president of the European Central Bank is considered today by Italians, according to all the polls, as the best possible candidate.