Italy Starts Search for New President With Draghi as Contender
(Bloomberg) -- Italian lawmakers will start voting to elect the country’s new president on Jan. 24, with Prime Minister Mario Draghi a top contender in a process that could last several days and spark political turmoil.
The date of the first secret ballot for choosing a successor to President Sergio Mattarella was announced by the head of the parliament’s lower chamber, Roberto Fico, on Tuesday. More than 1,000 deputies, senators and delegates will vote once a day in Rome’s parliament, in a process that has been compared to the election of a new pope.
Draghi, 74, is regularly floated as a leading prospect to follow Mattarella, whose seven-year term runs out early next month. His move to the Quirinale, as the presidential palace is known, would cut short the government’s term and could spark an early general election, which current polls showing a center-right coalition would be likely to win.
Markets are watching the events with unease, given the former head of the European Central Bank is spearheading Italy’s economic makeover and is seen as the guarantor for more than 200 billion euros ($226 billion) from the European Union’s recovery fund over the next years. A government headed by the anti-migrant League leader Matteo Salvini would unsettle markets given his past clashes with the EU.
Draghi last month left the door open to becoming president, telling reporters he was “a man and a grandpa, if you like, at the service of the state.” He also tried to dispel concerns that his promotion to the presidency would lead to snap elections, saying stability could continue regardless of who leads a future government, as long as it is backed by the current broad majority.
While there are so far no official candidates for the presidential election, past prime ministers Giuliano Amato, Silvio Berlusconi and Paolo Gentiloni, Justice Minister Marta Cartabia and former lower house speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini are among the names that are regularly touted.
While the head of state’s powers are mostly ceremonial, they become crucial during Italy’s frequent government crises. The president is a stabilizing force, picking prime ministers, nominating ministers chosen by the premier, and holding the ultimate say on whether to dissolve parliament. The president can also reject laws and decrees on constitutional grounds.
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