Italian lawmakers to meet to elect new president

Italian lawmakers will meet Thursday to begin voting to elect a new president, parliament said in a statement, amid hopes that the election could help end a deadlock on forming a new government.

Italian lawmakers to meet to elect new president
Italy's current president Giorgio Napolitano. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

The joint session of both chambers of parliament together with regional representatives – making for 1,007 voters in total – will meet at 08:00 GMT, said the statement released on Monday.

There needs to be a two-thirds majority behind a single candidate in the first three rounds of voting, after which a simply majority will suffice.

No single party or coalition holds a simple majority, meaning there will have to be some kind of compromise which analysts hope could be the basis for a broader agreement to establish a new government after two months of deadlock.

Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left coalition narrowly won the February 24th-25th elections but failed to get enough votes for an overall majority in parliament.

He has failed to woo lawmakers from a new anti-establishment party, the Five Star Movement, and has ruled out a grand coalition with Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition, which came a very close second in the election.

Behind-the-scenes talks between parties in recent days have focused on the presidential vote – seen as a key step since the new president will have the power to dissolve parliament and call early elections if there is no deal.

President Giorgio Napolitano, 87, does not have that constitutional power as he was in the last months of his seven-year mandate.

The Italian presidency is a mostly ceremonial role but it takes on crucial importance during the country's political crises.

Napolitano helped steer the nomination of outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti after Silvio Berlusconi's ouster in 2011.

Three former prime ministers — Giuliano Amato, Massimo D'Alema and Romano Prodi – are among the names being mentioned as possible successors.

But there are also believed to be "outsider" candidates like Gino Strada, head of the medical charity Emergency, and Emma Bonino, a former European commissioner and human rights activist.

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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.