Jan 29, 2022 06:54 UTC
  • Italian legislators fail again to elect new president amid lack of consensus among party leaders

Insistence by Italy’s center-right bloc that one of their candidates is vaulted to the country’s presidency backfired on Friday, as tensions and frustration mounted among the rival parties forming Premier Mario Draghi’s pandemic unity government and a fifth day of voting yielded no winner.

In each of two rounds of voting on Friday, one political bloc or the other abstained in droves from casting ballots, making plain how far apart both sides were on agreeing who should be Italy’s next head of state.

At the start of the fifth day of voting, right-wing League leader Matteo Salvini declared that the center-right bloc would vote for the Senate president, Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati. Her political career’s springboard has been the conservative Forza Italia party of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who himself bowed out as a candidate before voting began this week.

But her candidacy garnered only 382 votes from among Parliament’s Senate and lower Chamber of Deputies and special regional electors, far short of the simple majority of 505 needed for victory.

A sixth round of balloting, held on Friday evening, also yielded no winner, with leaders from the center-right bloc indicating their electors were sitting out that round while behind-the-scenes negotiations continued.

Outgoing President Sergio Mattarella, 80, has repeatedly said he doesn’t want a second term despite appeals from some party leaders in recent weeks. He recently rented an apartment in Rome, preparing for his move out of the presidential Quirinal Palace when his term runs out on Feb. 3.

But with political consensus across the party spectrum so far failing to materialize, lobbying could swell to persuade him to change his mind. In Friday’s evening round, Mattarella gained the most votes – 336 – indicating that for the time being at least no other name was ripe to attract significant traction.

Balloting continues on Saturday morning.

Neither of the two major blocs in Parliament – the center-right or center-left – has the necessary majority on paper. Secret voting means the risk is also high for defections.

Under the Constitution, the head of state is a largely ceremonial figure who represents national unity. The president, however, helps to authoritatively mediate Italy’s frequent political squabbling in its coalition governments and can dissolve Parliament if it becomes hopelessly stalemated.