What’s going on in Italy: presidential election merry-go-round

Posted on 20. April 2013

by Afrola Plaku

afrola-plaku-modifiedAs I write, the sixth round of voting for the presidential elections is taking place in Rome. Italian President of the Republic, with a 7 years mandate, is elected by  the Members of the Parliament and the representatives of the regions (1007 voters) during a plenary session, and needs at least 504 votes (from the third voting round on) to be elected.

Formerly considered more as a symbolic role, with the prime minister and the government managing executive power and deciding the country’s political pattern, the President of the Republic has gained more and more political importance in the recent past, with former President Giorgio Napolitano being considered by public opinion and external observers as the only stable and respectable figure in a political scenario characterized by continuous scandals, the decrease in citizens’ trust towards political parties and a general sense of confusion and lack of capable guidance for the country.

After the transitory government presided by Mr. Monti (a solution strongly influenced by President Napolitano, who understood the necessity of change after disastrous four years of Mr. Berlusconi’s government), Italian general elections in February led to a even more confused situation, where none of the main parties (the left wing Democratic Party, right wing People of Freedom or the brand new 5 Star Movement, led by the comedian-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo, who reported a striking success) had the majority needed to form a stable government. New elections are needed to allow for the formation of a stable government, but it is not possible to do so until a new president of the Republic is elected, since he is the only one in charge of calling for new elections.

In such a situation, with the three biggest parties unable of compromise and cooperation on any theme on Italian agenda, the presidential election is a very delicate process in which political forces should choose a shared candidate, a super-partes character with high institutional profile, which will have the heavy heritage left by president Napolitano, who managed to represent the last element of certainty and care for the res publica – the public thing- in a country in which majority of people believe politicians get elected only to pursue their own interests.

The first voting round started April 18, and since then many names have been pushed and then dismissed by political parties – the leader of the democratic party, Mr. Bersani, supported 80-year-old former Senate President Franco Marini, who was also supported by Berlusconi; after an internal fight in the DP, votes migrated to 79-year-old Stefano Rodotà, the Five-Star Movement candidate, but even the latter did not reach the majority of votes needed for election; yesterday it seemed we were near to the election of the former European Commission president Romano Prodi, but the refusal of the right wing and of members of the left to support him led to another impasse.

Today former President Napolitano declared he would accept the position in case he was elected again, and this makes probable his second mandate, which is an unheard thing in Italian political history, although not forbidden by Constitution.

Considerations on who would be the more suitable candidate apart, what is striking in this situation is the complete failure of Italian traditional parties to lead the country towards a process of progress and improvement,  or more simply to manage to discuss and collaborate as grown-ups for an institutional step – presidential elections – which is fundamental for the correct functioning of the state. There is a more and more diffused feeling of complete distance of political parties from the desires and moods of their electorate, and a growing sense of failure in the process of renewal which was expected by many after last February’s general elections.

In the last days the majority of my Italian Facebook contacts (young people who are in most cases attending university) cried its frustration for being represented by such disappointing politicians, and as the voting rounds went on and on without reaching a consensus for the country’ sake, many declared their hope to build their future as far as possible from Italy. Of course this is an emotional reaction, and in most cases facts won’t follow these considerations, but when even the young are discouraged and all their hopes and energies are killed by a group of old men in suit and tie who seem not to care about their institutional role and their responsibilities towards the country, then, well, we really are in a bad place.