Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, two months shy of his 88th birthday, has said his work is done as he prepares to hand off the country’s political stalemate to an unknown successor. The role of the Italian president is generally a figurehead — cutting ribbons, greeting dignitaries, that kind of thing — except in times of political crisis, of which Napolitano has had plenty.
The former communist and resistance fighter managed to muscle Silvio Berlusconi from power in November 2011, when Italy’s bond yields topped 7 percent, and pass the baton to Mario Monti, who proved to be beloved by investors and eurocrats. Unfortunately for the two men, Monti didn’t fare as well with Italian voters when he became a political candidate in the Feb. 24-25 elections, and his effort contributed to causing a hung parliament that’s left Italy without a new government six weeks after the vote.
Napolitano’s term ends on May 15, and he said on April 12 that with the presentation of a report he commissioned on possible economic and political reforms, his work was finished. Now the same political leaders who haven’t been able to reach a deal on forming a government, must come to an agreement on Napolitano’s successor, who will then be called on to end the political stalemate. The vote to choose the new president should begin in Parliament on April 18.
Democratic Party head Pier Luigi Bersani, who won a Pyrrhic victory in the February election, has so far refused Silvio Berlusconi’s offer to cut a deal on a president and then form a “grand coalition” government, raising concern that Italy may have to return to the polls. Without changing the election law, a new vote would likely produce a similar divide in the Senate. Still, polls indicate the Berlusconi, despite facing two corruption verdicts, including one for allegedly engaging a minor in prostitution, would likely carry the Chamber.