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POLITICS

Italian protest party holds online vote for president

Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement party held an online vote on Thursday to select candidates to be the crisis-hit country's next president -- an unorthodox move before lawmakers begin voting on the post next week.

Italian protest party holds online vote for president
M5S leader Grillo has proposed Nobel laureate playwright Dario Fo for president. Photo: Caulfieldh

Members of the protest party led by former comedian turned populist firebrand Beppe Grillo could propose their candidate for president through the party's website and a shortlist of the ten top names will be voted on next week.

The M5S as it is known by its Italian acronym said in a statement that the country's two main political forces — the centre-right and centre-left — wanted a president who would defend their interests and defend the status quo.

No other party is holding online voting.

"I believe the next president should not come from the political world or be someone who holds or has held a civil service job," said Grillo, who has proposed 87-year-old Nobel laureate playwright Dario Fo for the seven-year mandate. 

He accused the parties of deciding on candidates in "secret rooms", saying his movement was having "a public and democratic consultation".

Among the possible names mentioned by M5S supporters on social media was Gino Strada, the outspoken head of the international medical charity Emergency, and Milena Gabanelli, an investigative journalist on public television.

Thursday's voting wraps up at 1900 GMT.

The shortlist will be voted online again on Tuesday and the winner will be the official presidential candidate for the movement.

A joint session of parliament is due to meet to begin voting for a new president next Thursday.

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ENERGY

Italy to have enough gas ‘to make it through winter’

Italy’s current gas stocks should suffice for the upcoming winter but the government should be wary of unforeseen supply-chain issues, says ENI CEO Claudio Descalzi.

Italy to have enough gas 'to make it through winter'

Despite recent issues regarding Russian supplies, Italy should have enough gas to make it through the winter, said Claudio Descalzi, the CEO of Italian energy giant ENI, on Thursday.

“Russian gas has effectively been replaced” and the current conditions should afford the country some “tranquillity” ahead of the winter season, he added.

READ ALSO: Russia will resume gas deliveries to Italy, Gazprom says 

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas from Moscow accounted for about 40 percent of Italy’s annual gas imports. 

At the present time, however, Russian gas only contributes to around 10 percent of the country’s demand, with deliveries sitting around “10-15 million cubic metres per day”, said Descalzi.

Logo of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Russian gas, which is supplied by energy giant Gazprom, currently accounts for only 10 percent of Italian gas imports, down from 40 percent. Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

ENI’s CEO also expressed contentment over the country’s gas-storing efforts, saying that national stocks “will soon be completely full” – according to the latest available indications, 90 percent of them have already been filled up. 

Descalzi’s words of reassurance came only a day after Russian energy giant Gazprom resumed gas deliveries to Italy. 

As previously reported by The Local, the supply of Russian gas to Rome had been suspended last Saturday due to disagreements over contractual obligations between Gazprom and Austrian energy regulator E-Control.

The incident had raised reasonable fears of a long-term suspension of Russian gas supplies, with Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani and Descalzi both stepping in over the weekend to reassure citizens about Italy’s gas reserves.

That said, despite the relative stability of Italy’s current energy status, a measure of uncertainty still lingers on. 

Descalzi himself admitted on Thursday that “technical issues on the part of suppliers” or an “exceptionally cold winter” might cause problems for Italy’s energy plans.

That’s why, he said, “regasification plants are so vital for next year’s winter” and to give further stability to the system.  

Two workers ride bicycles at the Barcelona's Enagas regasification plant.

Regasification plants will be vital to Italy’s plans to rely on liquefied natural gas supplies in the future. Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP

READ ALSO: What does the shut-off of Russian gas supplies mean for Italy?

Briefly, though Italy has chosen to bet heavily on Algerian gas in order to wean itself off Russian supplies – Algeria will supply Rome with as many as nine billion cubic metres of gas next year – the country will also receive a total of four billion cubic metres of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) from different African partners over the course of 2023.

Regasification plants, which essentially work to convert liquid gas to its gaseous state, will then be essential to unlock the potential of the new LNG supplies. 

Italy currently has three active regasification plants, but the construction of a fourth one near Piombino, Tuscany is now under consideration.

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