Silvio Berlusconi withdraws from the race for the presidential election in Italy
Silvio Berlusconi announced in a statement sent to the press on Saturday January 22 that he had decided not to stand in the presidential election in Italy. The former chairman of the board, 85, thus removes an obstacle to negotiations between the parties before a vote in Parliament to appoint Sergio Mattarella’s successor, scheduled for January 24.
The appointment of current council president Mario Draghi is now seen as Parliament’s most likely choice, but it is not yet certain whether the wide range of parties backing his coalition will back him, lest his departure triggers early elections.
Silvio Berlusconi has said he wants the former president of the European Central Bank to stay on as head of government until the end of the legislature in 2023. “I have decided to take another step on the path to national responsibility, asking those who proposed it to give up indicating my name for the Presidency of the Republic”, he said.
The right-wing coalition had asked Mr. Berlusconi to run for president. His candidacy was unlikely to be successful due to his difficulty mustering the broad support traditionally needed among the more than 1,000 electors involved in the ballot.
Limited but essential presidential prerogatives
Silvio Berlusconi remains a very divisive figure in Italy and the centre-left camp had already ruled out supporting him. Temporarily excluded from the public service after a conviction for tax evasion in 2013, he is still on trial for bribing witnesses in a case of child prostitution.
Neither the centre-right nor the centre-left bloc have enough votes to impose a candidate from their own side, meaning a compromise will be needed to avoid a prolonged deadlock. “We will work with the leaders of the centre-right (…) to agree on a name that can garner a broad consensus in Parliament”, says Silvio Berlusconi’s press release.
Sergio Mattarella, at the age of 80, wishes to take advantage of his retirement after an eventful mandate, during which the role of arbitrator entrusted by the Italian Constitution to the President of the Republic has been highlighted several times. Elected for seven years by Parliament and 52 representatives of the Italian regions, the president is in fact the first guarantor of respect foru text, voted in 1947.
Its prerogatives are few – appointment of the President of the Council of Ministers, validation of the government, dissolution of the two chambers of Parliament – but essential in times of political alternation.
Theoretically organized every five years, they lead to the constitution of a Parliament with two chambers. 630 deputies and 320 senators are then elected, and the party or parties with the most votes must agree on a candidate to occupy the post of president of the council – the equivalent of the French prime minister.
Once this candidacy has been validated by the President of the Republic, the President of the Council proposes a government team, again subject to the agreement of the Head of State. He has a right of veto without appeal. If used, the chairman of the board can either make new proposals or choose to step down. The president is then responsible for appointing a new chairman of the board himself.
If it is validated by the presidency, the government must then obtain the vote of confidence of the two chambers of Parliament, meeting in plenary session. It is only at the end of this procedure that he obtains his full executive powers, more extensive than those of the president.