Right-wing parties for Berlusconi as president

DFriday afternoon’s announcement comes as no surprise: the alliance of center-right Italian parties has unanimously backed Silvio Berlusconi’s candidacy for the post of president.

Matthias Rub

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

Berlusconi, founder and leader of the Christian Democratic party Forza Italia, had invited former interior minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing national Lega, and Giorgia Meloni of the post-fascist “Brothers of Italy” party to a meeting at his Residence Villa Grande in the southeast of Rome. A joint statement from the three party leaders then said they agreed “that Silvio Berlusconi is the right person to hold high office in this difficult situation”. Because the Italian head of state represents the national unity of the country, the official must have “authority, balance and international reputation”. Berlusconi fulfills this requirement profile in an exemplary manner.

In order to secure the support of the European People’s Party (EPP), Berlusconi had previously invited Manfred Weber (CSU), the leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament, to the Villa Grande. Forza Italia has always been part of the EPP family of Christian Democratic parties in Europe. As expected, Weber also expressed his support for his political ally Berlusconi. Berlusconi, now 85, is an experienced and strong political leader with an intimate knowledge of international affairs who, despite his strong political convictions, “should now have the chance to show that he is capable of uniting”, said Weber.

The left think Berlusconi is the wrong guy

The parties of the Italian left see things very differently. Enrico Letta, leader of the Social Democrats, and Giuseppe Conte, leader of the left-wing populist movement Five Stars, confirmed on Friday evening that they would do everything possible to prevent Berlusconi from being elected. Matteo Renzi of the small left-liberal Italia Viva party also said he thought Berlusconi was the wrong candidate.

As neither the right-wing camp nor the left-wing camp have enough votes to elect the new head of state on their own, both camps are seeking the support of independent deputies and senators who are not registered in the Parliamentary Assembly. It is expected to take at least four ballots to determine Sergio Mattarella’s successor at the electoral convention, which begins on January 24. From the fourth ballot, an absolute majority of 505 of the 1009 votes of the electorate is sufficient, in the first three rounds a two-thirds majority is required. Since only one vote can take place per day, the decision should not be made before January 27 at the earliest.

Favorite candidate Draghi

The current Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, is the preferred candidate for the presidency among the left parties, among the representatives of the political center and among those of the moderate right. Draghi is non-partisan and eleven years younger than Berlusconi. The former ECB chief was only appointed prime minister by Mattarella in February and has since led a sort of government of national unity, which brings together all the main political forces except for Meloni’s “Italian brothers”. .

On the eve of the meeting at Berlusconi, the leader of the Lega Salvini had indicated that his party was ready to remain in the coalition, even if Draghi had to move from the post of prime minister to that of president. Berlusconi expressly ruled out this possibility and announced that his Forza Italia would leave the government if Draghi became president. It was seen as an open challenge from Draghi, who expressly did not rule out running for the highest state office. Berlusconi promotes himself by arguing that he is the only presidential candidate who can guarantee the continued existence of the coalition government led by Draghi until the end of the legislature in March 2023. If there was another solution, there would be new elections this spring.

The factual duel between Berlusconi and Draghi for the presidency is straining cooperation within the coalition. The fact that the parties united in Draghi’s cabinet are deeply at odds over the important personnel issue effectively signifies the end of political cooperation within the unity coalition. It is uncertain whether this can remain in office as some sort of emergency government community until 2023 should a third candidate run for the highest office in the state.

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