Italian president re-elected in turmoil | Magnet

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Italian head of state Sergio Mattarella has been re-elected for a second term, with party leaders asking him to continue after a week of fruitless and often difficult votes in parliament to choose a successor.

Relieved party leaders thanked Mattarella, 80, for agreeing to stay on, but failed attempts to replace him in the seven rounds of voting have left deep scars, with potentially dangerous repercussions for political stability.

Nonetheless, financial markets are likely to react positively to the status quo, which will see Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who had made it clear that he hoped to become president himself, remain prime minister instead.

Draghi said in a statement on Saturday that Mattarella’s re-election was “wonderful news for Italians”, thanking him for “his decision to follow the extremely strong will of parliament”.

Pope Francis sent the re-elected president a telegram of congratulations.

In the eighth round among more than 1,000 politicians and regional delegates in the Chamber of Deputies, loud and prolonged applause erupted as Mattarella secured the 505 votes needed for the election.

He had previously ruled out staying in power, but with the country’s political stability under threat, he changed his mind in the face of appeals from parliamentary leaders who met him at his palace earlier in the day.

In brief comments from the palace, Mattarella said the current coronavirus crisis and Italy’s difficult economic and social conditions meant he was bound to accept parliament’s decision.

He said that while he had other personal plans, he was “committed to meeting the expectations and hopes of the people”.

In the Italian political system, the president is a powerful figure who appoints prime ministers and is often called upon to resolve political crises. Governments in the eurozone’s third-largest economy survive about a year on average.

Center-left Democratic Party (PD) leader Enrico Letta, who had championed Mattarella’s re-election, addressed reporters to express “enormous thanks…for his generous choice towards the country”.

Draghi called Mattarella earlier and urged him to stay, a political source said.

Relations between the ruling coalition parties deteriorated during the electoral process amid mutual recrimination over the failure to find a consensus figure.

Draghi’s coalition includes the main centre-left and centre-right parties as well as the right-wing League, the once anti-establishment 5-Star movement and a series of smaller parties.

Even before the agreement between their leaders, politicians had increasingly backed Mattarella in the daily polls, with his total reaching 387 in the seventh round earlier on Saturday.

In the end, he obtained 759 votes, 94 more than in his first election in 2015 and the second highest number of Italian heads of state after Sandro Pertini, president from 1978 to 1985.

Australian Associated Press

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