Italy: 80-Year-Old Sergio Mattarella Secures Second Term as President

Italian President Sergio Mattarella speaks durina a joint press conference with French President after their meeting at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris on July 5, 2021. (Photo by Lewis Joly / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEWIS JOLY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
LEWIS JOLY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

ROME (AP) – Italian President Sergio Mattarella was elected on Saturday night to a second seven-year term as the country’s head of state, ending days of political impasse by party leaders that risked eroding the nation’s credibility.

Earlier on Saturday, lawmakers entreated Mattarella, 80, who had said he didn´t want a second mandate, to change his mind and agree to reelection by lawmakers in Parliament and regional delegates. That move followed days of fruitless efforts by political leaders to reach a consensus on another candidate.

Mattarella won in the eighth round of voting when he clinched the minimum of 505 votes needed from the eligible 1,009 Grand Electors. Applause broke out in Parliament, prompting the Chamber of Deputies president to interrupt his reading aloud of the ballots. The count then resumed, with Mattarella continuing to mount in the count well past 670.

Mattarella’s term ends Feb. 3. Ahead of the presidential election this week, Mattarella repeatedly said he doesn’t want another stint. He even rented an apartment in Rome to prepare for his move from the presidential palace atop Quirinal Hill.

But after a seventh round of balloting in six days in Parliament failed to yield any consensus on a presidential candidate, party whips and regional governors visited Mattarella at the presidential palace to solicit his willingness Saturday.

Rai state TV said Premier Mario Draghi, a non-partisan former chief of the European Central Bank who is leading a pandemic unity government, telephoned party leaders to encourage the lobbying. Draghi had previously indicted he would be willing to move into the president’s role, but some party leaders featured that would prompt an early election.

Mattarella’s willingness to serve again “is a choice of generosity toward the country,” Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta told a news conference minutes before Saturday’s second, conclusive round of voting began.

“You don’t change a winning team,” former Premier Matteo Renzi told reporters about the current leadership with Draghi, a reassuring figure to financial markets, and Mattarella as president.

A chorus of Italian politicians earlier Saturday called for Mattarella to reconsider.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who heads the center-right Forza Italia party he founded, said that unity “today can only be found around the figure of President Sergio Mattarella, of whom we know we’re asking a great sacrifice.”

Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who heads a small left-wing party, told reporters that Mattarella’s re-election would be crucial for “a context of stability for Italy.”

The head of the populist 5-Star Movement, Parliament’s largest force, former Premier Giuseppe Conte, told reporters “Mattarella is the guarantor of everybody, impartial, authoritative.”

Until 2013, no president had served a second term. Then, a similar political stalemate in several rounds of balloting ended when Giorgio Napolitano, a former Communist leader, agreed to accept a second mandate. Napolitano resigned in 2015, when he was nearly 90, clearing the way for the election that made Mattarella Italy’s head of state.

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