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Italy: Lawmakers vote to keep Mattarella as president


Italy's Parliament has reelected 80-year-old Sergio Mattarella to serve another term as president, after days of voting failed to produce a successor. Mattarella previously said he did not want to stay in the job.

An overwhelming majority of Italian lawmakers voted on Saturday for President Sergio Mattarella to serve another seven-year term, despite the veteran politician previously saying he was not interested. The Saturday vote follows days of quarreling in the Italian Parliament and several failed voteson Mattarella's potential successors.

To try and end the standoff, Prime Minister Mario Draghi spoke to Mattarella earlier on Saturday and requested that he remain in office "for the good and stability of the country," local media reported.

Commenting on Mattarella's reelection on Saturday evening, Draghi described it as "splendid news" for Italians.

"I am grateful to the president for his decision to go along with the extremely strong will of Parliament to reelect him for a second term," Draghi said in a statement.

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Mattarella's office has yet to officially state if the president is on board with the new proposal. On Saturday afternoon, a government minister said the veteran politician would to serve another term.

Parliamentarians also said Mattarella was willing to continue on as president.

"I had other plans, but if needed, I am at your disposition," Mattarella allegedly told them.

Eighth time the charm

The vote to confirm Mattarella was the eighth since the political stalemate began days earlier.

Round after round of fruitless balloting since Monday highlighted the deep rivalries among the parties in Draghi's wide-ranging coalition.

The six-party alliance was formed nearly a year ago to lead Italy out of the COVID-19 pandemic and help it recover economically — thanks to €200 billion ($222 billion) in promised European Union funds.

Italy's presidency is largely ceremonial, but the head of state wields serious power during political crises, from dissolving Parliament to picking new prime ministers and denying mandates to fragile coalitions.

Prime Minister Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief, had been touted for months as the most eligible candidate for the next president.

But some parties have insisted he is too precious a resource to lose as prime minister.

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Major parties back Mattarella second term

Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League party, has backed the move to offer Mattarella a second term, along with billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, who took a failed shot at the presidency himself.

Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's center-left Democratic Party (PD) also appeared ready to vote for Mattarella.

Italy was in a similar situation nearly a decade ago when Giorgio Napolitano was elected to stay on as president, in an attempt to resolve the political stalemate left by an inconclusive 2013 general election.

mm/dj (AFP, AP, Reuters)