Sergio Mattarella has been reelected as Italy’s president, ending days of a farcical parliamentary voting process that has exposed deep divisions within the country’s governing coalition.
Mattarella won a second seven-year mandate with 759 votes, far exceeding the threshold of 505, after being persuaded to stay on in the role after ruling party leaders failed to reach an agreement on a candidate who could secure broad support from the 1,009 parliamentarians and regional representatives electing the president.
Mario Draghi, the prime minister, had also urged Mattarella, 80, to remain in post “for the good and stability of the country”. Mattarella had been due to step down on 3 February, and before succumbing to pressure had repeatedly said he did not want another term.
“He had other plans for his future,” said Julia Unterberger, a senator from the small SVP party who was among the party whips who met Mattarella before the final vote. “Given the situation, we begged him to stay for another term.”
Parliamentarians applauded after Mattarella clinched victory. After the result, Draghi said: “Sergio Mattarella’s reelection as president of the republic is splendid news for Italians. I am grateful to the president for his choice to support the very strong will of parliament to reelect him for a second term.”
His reelection comes after six long days of fruitless back-door negotiations between squabbling parties in the ruling majority and eight rounds of voting.
Enrico Letta, the leader of the centre-left Democratic party, earlier in the day thanked Mattarella “for this important and necessary choice of generosity”.
Draghi, who has been widely credited with restoring political stability in Italy and, at least until now, keeping his broad coalition in line, was tipped as the frontrunner for president, but the ruling parties were reluctant to endorse him over fears his promotion would trigger early elections.
“Italians do not deserve any more days of confusion,” Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League, said. Salvini’s endorsement of Mattarella came hours after he strongly backed a woman for president.
“Let’s reconfirm President Mattarella … and Draghi, and immediately get back to work this afternoon. The problems of the Italians won’t wait,” he added.
Matteo Renzi, who leads the small centrist party, Italia Viva, said that maintaining Mattarella as president and Draghi as prime minister was “the only way to leave Italy safe from the outlandish madness and lack of political direction”. Giuseppe Conte, leader of the Five Star Movement, the largest party in parliament, said: “The Mattarella option has found wide acceptance.”
Both Mattarella and Draghi are popular leaders among Italians. But the perception of the “status quo” in the ruling majority prevailing is “superficial reading”, especially after a week of political drama that reflected a “lack of leadership, trust and courage”, said Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the London-based research company, Teneo.
“The whole political system failed the presidential election test,” added Piccoli. “The ruling coalition emerges weaker and deeply divided.”
Francesco Galietti, the founder of Policy Sonar, a Rome-based political consultancy, said: “What is clear to me is that things are no longer the same. Trust within the ruling majority, and vis-a-vis Draghi, is undermined. Sadly enough, infighting will continue and possibly escalate.”