Italy's 87 Year Old Outgoing President To Break Political Impasse, To Get Second Term

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Update: 87 year old Giorgio Napolitano has been reelected as president of Italy during the 6th consecutive vote. He becomes the first Italian president to serve two terms.

Earlier today the fifth consecutive round of presidential voting in Italy failed to produce the sufficient majority for the country to elect a president courtesy of its fractured political system, especially following the announcement last night from the PD's leader Pier Luigi Bersani that he would quit his post after a president is elected.  More than 440 blank ballots were cast in the fifth ballot today, with the leading vote-getter Stefano Rodota -- the candidate of Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement -- at 210. Shortly thereafter an ingenious solution has emerged: reelect the current figurehead president Giorgio Napolitano for a second consecutive 7 year term so if not a prime minister, Italy, which has devolved into total political chaos since the February 25th inconclusive elections, would at least has a president. There is one problem: Napolitano is 87 years old.

Perhaps the prospect of a 95 year old president in 7 years is precisely the impetus the country needs to shift its economy into overdrive?

From Bloomberg:

Napolitano, 87, who met with caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti and representatives of the Democratic Party, Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party and the Northern League today, said “he can’t ignore responsibility toward the country,” according to an e-mailed statement.

 

The sixth round of voting to elect a president is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. in Rome. The fifth ballot earlier today failed to produce a successor to Napolitano. More than 440 blank ballots were cast in the fifth ballot today, with the leading vote-getter Stefano Rodota -- the candidate of Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement -- at 210.

 

A candidate needs 504 votes to be elected. Napolitano had said earlier this year that he wouldn’t accept a second seven- year term. Italian Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani failed to build support for ex-premier and former European Commission President Romano Prodi, who fell short of a simple majority in the fourth ballot yesterday. Bersani announced after that vote that he will resign as PD leader after a president is elected.

 

If Napolitano is re-elected, he will play the key role in trying to end the political impasse caused by inconclusive elections February 24-25 that failed to produce a viable ruling coalition and led to a hung parliament.

Bloomberg also adds that according to media reports, the octogenarian who is older than Warren Buffett, has the sufficient number of votes to be reelected in the 6th round of voting which will likely take place shortly.

Yet while the presidential election is largely a distraction, and now, a farce, it is the problems in Italy's Democratic Party (PD) that are now center stage, following what appears to be a complete implosion in the party that until two months ago was certain to have the necessary public support to elect the next prime minister. From Reuters:

Center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani announced his resignation on Friday after party rebels sabotaged two separate candidates he had backed for state president, deepening Italy's political chaos.

 

Bersani told a meeting of parliamentarians he would quit as Democratic Party (PD) leader as soon as the election of the next head of state was completed, following two dramatic days of parliamentary voting in which successive center-left candidates were scuppered in secret ballots.

 

"He accepted his responsibility after the disgrace of what happened," Paolo Gentiloni, a senior Democratic Party parliamentary deputy said after Bersani's announcement.

 

Then disarray in the center-left, which has the most seats in parliament, could make a snap election in the summer more likely to end the political deadlock, but there is no clarity about the next moves after weeks of chaos.

 

It is unclear who will take over leadership of the badly split party but Bersani's departure could clear the way for arch-rival Matteo Renzi, the dynamic 38-year-old mayor of Florence, to take over.

 

Bersani's announcement came shortly after former Prime Minister Romano Prodi announced he was pulling out of the race for president after more than 100 center-left electors disobeyed Bersani's instructions to vote for him in parliament.

 

It was the last of a series of humiliating setbacks for Bersani and blunders that have shredded his ability to hold the center-left bloc together.

 

The collapse of efforts to secure the presidency for Prodi, a respected international figure, underlined the deep fractures running through politics in a country still seeking a government nearly two months after February's inconclusive general election.

 

"The politicians should be ashamed of what they're doing to the country. Today we're seeing a level of irresponsibility that goes beyond all limits," said Diego Della Valle, head of shoe group Tod's, one of Italy's most successful clothing companies.

The biggest winner as a result of all of the above? Silvio Berlusconi of course, whose public support is soaring concurrently with the return of political chaos front and center to Italy, as well as a return to aphorisms uttered previously by the infamous Bunga magnate such as these:

"I am without doubt the person who's been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world and the history of man."

 

"In my opinion, and not only mine, I am the best prime minister we can find today."

 

Previously, on the same theme: "I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."

 

"The best political leader in Europe and in the world."

 

"There is no-one on the world stage who can compete with me."

 

"Out of love for Italy, I felt I had to save it from the left."

 

"The right man in the right job."

 

"I don't need to go into office for the power. I have houses all over the world, stupendous boats... beautiful airplanes, a beautiful wife, a beautiful family... I am making a sacrifice."

 

"In Italy I am almost seen as German for my workaholism. Also I am from Milan, the city where people work the hardest. Work, work, work - I am almost German."

.. and perhaps also those by Benito Mussolini:

Democracy is talking itself to death. The people do not know what they want; they do not know what is the best for them. There is too much foolishness, too much lost motion. I have stopped the talk and the nonsense. I am a man of action. Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.

and this:

People are tired of liberty. They have had a surfeit of it. Liberty is no longer a chaste and austere virgin…. Today’s youth are moved by other slogans…Order, Hierarchy, Discipline.