Italy's parliament holds new ballot, no deal in sight
Italy's parliament voted for a
sixth day running on Saturday to elect a new president, but the
parties remained deeply divided over a possible candidate, with
the leaders struggling to control their own lawmakers.
The week-long search to find a replacement for Sergio
Mattarella, whose seven-year mandate expires on Feb. 3, has laid
bare the fragility of Italian politics and highlighted a failure
of leadership in the main centre-right and centre-left blocs.
"Seeking a name in the chaos," top-selling daily Corriere
della Sera said on its front page headline. "More vetoes than
votes," Catholic daily L'Avvenire wrote.
The heads of both the rightist League party and 5-Star
Movement, which is allied to the centre-left, said late Friday
they wanted a woman to become president for the first time and
indicated that a deal was at hand.
Political sources said both groups were backing Elisabetta
Belloni, who heads the secret services, but the news provoked a
sharp backlash from other parties, splintering the centre-right
bloc and sowing dissent in 5-Star ranks.
The president is a powerful figure in Italy, who gets to
appoint prime ministers and is often called on to resolve
political crises in the euro zone's third-largest economy, where
governments survive barely a year on average.
Unlike in the United States or France, where heads of state
get elected in a popular vote, in Italy, 1,009 parliamentarians
and regional representatives chose the winner in a secret ballot
which party leaders sometimes struggle to control.
Threatening to ignore their leaders and take charge of the
situation themselves, lawmakers have been increasingly voting
for Mattarella in the ballots, despite the fact that he himself
has ruled out a second mandate.
In Friday's second vote, he received 336 ballots, up from
160 on Thursday and 125 on Wednesday. "Parliament wants
Mattarella," La Repubblica daily said in a frontpage headline.
It remains far from clear whether Mattarella, 80, would
accept another term, but many lawmakers believe his
reappointment is the best way to maintain the status quo and
enable the government to re-focus on battling the COVID-19
The repeated failure to find any sort of consensus has
poisoned the political atmosphere, with potentially dangerous
consequences for the stability of the broad coalition backing
Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government.
Draghi himself has made clear he would like the job of
president, but the main parties have so far refused to put his
name to a vote, partly out of fears that the abrupt switch of
roles could cause the fragile government to implode.
As voting resumed on Saturday, no party orders had filtered
down on which way lawmakers should vote, with the various blocs
apparently in disarray.
5-Star chief Giuseppe Conte did not show up at a meeting of
centre-left leaders while the centre-right Forza Italia party
said it would no longer seek a solution in partnership with its
traditional allies the League and Brothers of Italy.