Berlusconi renounces to be elected president of Italy
Berlusconi also announced that he, along with his allies from a center-right bloc, opposed any candidacy for the presidency of Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Draghi, the former head of the European central bank, now leads a pandemic unity government with broad political support.
Together, Berlusconi, Anti-Migrant League leader Matteo Salvini and nationalist Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni could command some 400 of the 1,009 voters who are expected to begin voting Monday for Italy’s next president.
Voters in the lower house of the Italian parliament, the Senate and special regional representatives are responsible for choosing a personality who could unite the country.
He has spent weeks polling his own conservative allies as well as lawmakers from centrist forces to see if he has enough support to add Italy’s top job to his political resume.
The prospect of Berlusconi becoming president already sparked a protest earlier this month in Rome, and another had been set for Monday when voting begins.
By dropping his candidacy for the presidency, Berlusconi said he had confirmed that he would have had enough support to be elected to a seven-year term as president. He said he was “honored and moved” but did not want to be the cause of “controversies or lacerations” in a country still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
With his characteristic lack of modesty, Berlusconi added that the presidency “represents the unity of the nation, of the country that I love and in whose service I have put myself for 30 years, with all my energies, my abilities, my competence “.
He noted that he was one of the biggest supporters last year of Draghi’s appointment to lead a pandemic unity coalition government of nearly all of Italy’s main parties, from right to left. The coalition emerged in 2021 after the pandemic devastated Italy economically and confidence declined in the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a populist leader.
“In this spirit, I have decided to take another step on the road to national responsibility” by asking all those who had pledged to support his presidential candidacy not to choose him. Instead, he and his fellow centre-right leaders will work to “agree on a name that can garner a broad consensus in parliament”.
Italy’s recovery from the pandemic “must move forward”, Berlusconi said. “That is why I consider it necessary for the Draghi government to complete its work until the end of the legislature to put in place” some 200 billion euros (230 billion dollars) of recovery funds from the European Union in the event of a pandemic, he said. The current legislature runs until spring 2023.
Draghi, who is held in high esteem by EU leaders, is widely seen as the guarantor that funds will be properly spent and that the reforms needed for aid will be implemented.
He is also seen as a serious candidate for the presidency, but for months he timidly evaded questions from reporters about whether he wanted the job. However, Draghi has made his interest clear saying he is offering himself to serve his country.
Berlusconi’s stepping back from the divisiveness prompted reactions of relief, including from former prime minister Conte, whose 5-Star Movement had been called by Berlusconi a danger to the nation.
“We said it clearly – Berlusconi’s candidacy was unacceptable,” Conte tweeted. “With his withdrawal, we can take a step forward and begin a serious comparison between political forces to provide the country with a prominent, authoritarian, widely shared personality.”
Despite Berlusconi’s claim that he had secured the necessary votes, League leader Salvini had recently appeared unconvinced that the media mogul was a shoe for the presidency.
A two-thirds majority is required in the first three rounds, making it unlikely that a winner could emerge early, given that no political bloc represents such a large margin. The fourth round requires a simple majority.
Past presidential elections have dragged on for days before yielding a winner.
The mandate of the current president, Sergio Mattarella, expires on February 3.