Italian President Sergio Mattarella re-elected, ending deadlock | Political news

Mattarella, 80, agrees to serve a second seven-year term after political parties failed to find an acceptable alternative.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has been elected to a second term, with parties calling on him to stay on after a week of often difficult votes in parliament to choose a successor.

Relieved party leaders thanked Mattarella, 80, on Saturday for agreeing to stay on, but failed attempts to replace him in all seven rounds of voting have left deep scars, with potentially dangerous repercussions for political stability.

In the eighth round of voting among more than 1,000 lawmakers and regional delegates in the Chamber of Deputies, loud and prolonged applause erupted as Mattarella secured the 505 votes needed for the election.

He had long ruled out staying in office, but with the country’s political stability under threat, he changed his mind in the face of appeals from parliamentary leaders who met him at the presidential palace earlier in the day.

Center-left Democratic Party (PD) leader Enrico Letta, who had championed Mattarella’s re-election, addressed reporters to express his “tremendous thanks…for his generous choice to the country.”

Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba said the move brought some stability to Italian politics and financial markets.

“Prime Minister Mario Draghi made it clear that he would like to be President of Italy.

“It was not welcomed by the main parties in Parliament – they wanted him to stay in office at least until the next general election in 2023.

“If he had moved, there should have been early elections, which could create instability. He is also seen as someone who can oversee Italy’s post-pandemic transition,” Baba said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi previously said he would like to be president [7/Pool via AFP]

This is the second time in a row that a president has been asked to renew his seven-year term. In 2013, the political leaders went headlong to the then head of state, Giorgio Napolitano, after they too failed to find a consensus candidate.

Napolitano reluctantly agreed, but withdrew two years later after the installation of a new government, paving the way for Mattarella.

Mattarella could potentially step down once the political situation permits, commentators said.

The failed efforts to replace him have left deep scars on the parties and their leaders, with the centre-right alliance particularly distraught after losing all semblance of unity in the past 24 hours.

Italian MPs in parliament give a standing ovationSenate President Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, left, and Lower House Speaker Roberto Fico applaud after Sergio Mattarella’s re-election as Italy’s 13th president [Gregorio Borgia/ Pool via AP Photo]

While Salvini’s League and Forza Italia have embraced the prospect of maintaining the status quo, their ally the Brotherhood of Italy, which has not joined them in the ruling coalition, has denounced the behind-the-scenes maneuvers.

“Once again Parliament has shown that it is not made for Italians,” said Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni, accusing her allies of “swapping” the presidency to ensure that the government remains in place until the end of the legislature in 2023.

The stakes were very high. The president is a powerful figure in Italy who appoints prime ministers and is often called upon to resolve political crises in the eurozone’s third-largest economy, where governments survive for about a year on average.

Unlike the United States or France, where heads of state are elected by universal suffrage, in Italy, 1,009 parliamentarians and regional elected officials are chosen by secret ballot, which party leaders sometimes find difficult to control.

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