Silvio Berlusconi and the mystery of Italy’s presidential election

The information that Italy is ready to get a brand new president later this month won’t precisely set hearts racing.

But, delve a bit deeper, and it is extra fascinating than it first appears.

How does Italy’s presidential election work?

Firstly, it is one of the idiosyncratic and mysterious presidential elections in Europe.

While in nations akin to France it is the individuals who elect a brand new president on the poll field, in Italy it is finished by 630 MPs, 321 senators and 58 regional representatives.

More unusually, reasonably than limiting it to a serving politician, Italy permits anybody over the age of fifty with “full civil rights” to be eligible for the position.

The considerably mysterious course of, which takes place over the course of rounds till a candidate obtains a majority, has garnered comparisons to the Papal conclave and stands as an outlier in Europe.

It has resulted in non-politicians like Gianni Versace’s brother, Santo, actress Sophia Loren and even an ‘Ndrangheta Mafia boss emerging as nominees.

Speaking to Euronews, Francesco Silvestri – an MP for the Five Star Movement – shed light on how certain unlikely names end up popping up.

“There are agreements and manoeuvers going on that result in 10 or 15 votes being cast for a specific person,” he told Euronews, “This all happens behind the scenes.”

Lawyer and constitutional expert, Marco Ladu, further explained the reasoning behind the process’ perceived idiosyncracies, particularly why presidents are chosen secretly by lawmakers versus most people.

“There are two main reasons behind the peculiarity of it all,” he stated. “To avoid the president’s contraposition with the will of the two houses [in parliament] and to assure that he or she has the needed serenity and independence to fulfil their role, both of which could be compromised by a direct election.”

Residing within the Quirinal Palace, the president of Italy — as head of state — is to make sure that the structure is being upheld.

Unlike the Prime Minister, the president of the republic doesn’t have an government perform, and reasonably represents the “point of connection” between the three branches of energy.

While the position is basically ceremonial, the president can flex his or her muscular tissues, akin to within the appointment of prime ministers or — as head of the Italian armed forces — throughout wars and different nationwide emergencies.

Why does Italy want a brand new president?

Because Sergio Mattarella, having come to the tip of his seven-year mandate, can be stepping down from the position.

He has presided over a number of crises — such because the COVID-19 pandemic — and is broadly perceived as being a beacon of stability throughout a very rocky time.

Mattarella enjoys widespread public assist, that means that discovering a substitute has been a problem.

The listing of proposed nominees consists of recent and never so recent faces, together with the controversial former prime minister and media magnate, Silvio Berlusconi.

It has helped flip this election into one of many nation’s most heated in reminiscence.

Who are the options to Berlusconi?

As Italy heads in the direction of the primary spherical on 24 January, quite a lot of names have been touted as potential candidates – though, because of the method’ secrecy, making dependable forecasts is a difficult enterprise.

Italy’s incumbent Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, is broadly perceived as a well-liked selection for the position, though sure commentators and buyers worry that his early departure from the federal government might go away the nation in an unstable place.

There have even been recommendations, particularly fashionable throughout the Five Star Movement, that Mattarella could also be picked once more for the operating.

Out of all the present recommendations, nonetheless, none of them are as well-known — and intensely polarising — as Berlusconi.

The 85-year-old ruled Italy 3 times between 1994 and 2011, as head of the nation’s centre-right coalition, which united average Christian democrats, hard-line post-fascists, Northern separatists and even a handful of social democrats.

Throughout this tenure, Berlusconi was caught up in quite a lot of scandals which have entwined his personal and public life – starting from stories of “Bunga Bunga” orgies and allegations of soliciting a baby for sexual companies to accusations of corruption and hyperlinks with organised crime.

While his supporters have praised him for his purported enterprise acumen and magnetic enchantment, he has been condemned by detractors for supposedly fostering a Borgia-like tradition of favouritism and for utilizing his fashionable TV channels as automobiles for electoral propaganda.

His crimes within the court docket of public opinion might have been many and various, however within the eyes of the regulation, it was dodging taxes that sealed the deal. In 2013, he was convicted by Italy’s Supreme Court for evading round 7 million euros in taxes by his firm, Finivest, leading to him being sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment (diminished to 1 yr of neighborhood service) and disbarred from public workplace for six.

Such a background might make him an unlikely candidate for the ceremonial gravitas anticipated of a president, and but, he’s now the centre-right’s nominee: the hard-right populist Northern League (Lega Nord), headed by former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, and the national-conservative Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia), whose chief – Giorgia Meloni – is Italy’s new breakout star within the opinion polls, have formally teamed up with their coalition ally in supporting his presidential bid. This is regardless of dissent throughout the bloc – the League’s personal Chamber of Deputies group chief, Riccardo Molinari, referred to as him “divisive” – and Salvini’s personal fraught relationship with Berlusconi, having beforehand criticised him.

‘Terrible ramifications’

Euronews spoke to Alex Bazzaro, a Northern League MP since 2018 and Salvini’s former social media manager, to gauge his ideas on the upcoming presidential election.

At solely 34 years of age, Bazzaro is among the decrease home’s youthful members and was ten days shy of his seventh birthday when Berlusconi received his first normal election in 1994. Now, Bazzaro can be enthusiastically supporting Berlusconi’s presidency.

“It’s the first time the centre-right [coalition] is putting forward its own presidential candidate, and that’s a good thing,” he exalted. “The public will is there for him to be the country’s leader.”

When requested about whether or not Berlusconi’s scandals and controversies might show unpopular among the many League’s voters – who’re largely interested in the party’s unwavering law-and-order mantra – Bazzaro re-iterated his ideas that his voters would “appreciate that the centre-right has put forward and united behind its own candidate”.

Bazzaro’s response to Molinari’s accusations {that a} Berlusconi Presidency might show divisive: “If he’s divisive, it’s only with the left.”

Indeed, Berlusconi’s potential election has left many on the opposite facet of the political spectrum, and even the League’s former authorities coalition allies – the Five Star Movement – deeply involved.

Silvestri, who’s a first-time voter within the presidential elections, is especially aghast by the proposition.

“If Berlusconi were to become president, it would be a very bad thing for us,” he confessed to Euronews. “As a movement, we were born against everything he stands for, especially given his many trials and allegations of links with the mafia.

“It would have terrible ramifications not only for Italy’s image but for its international credibility and thus the economy

“After all the country has been through, Italy simply can’t afford to have Berlusconi as its president.”

Pollsters at present predict {that a} Draghi presidency is probably going, however don’t rule out Berlusconi’s probabilities. One current ballot recommended that he’s Italians’ second favorite selection for the position, displaying his enduring – albeit closely divisive – enchantment among the many public.

Every weekday, Uncovering Europe brings you a European story that goes past the headlines. Download the Euronews app to get a every day alert for this and different breaking information notifications. It’s out there on Apple and Android units.


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