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POLITICS

Voting for new Italian president to begin on January 24th

Italy's parliament and regional representatives will begin voting on January 24th for a new head of state, officials said Tuesday, with Prime Minister Mario Draghi the favourite to be the next president.

Voting for new Italian president to begin on January 24th
Photo by YARA NARDI / POOL / AFP

The role of Italy’s head of state is largely ceremonial except in times of political crisis, when the president plays a crucial arbitrating role.

Roberto Fico, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, convened a session for Monday, January 24th at 3pm Central European Time “for the election of the president of the Republic”, a statement from the lower parliamentary chamber said.

President Sergio Mattarella, an 80-year-old former judge, will complete his seven-year term on February 3rd.

There are no official candidates yet to succeed him, but Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief who was parachuted in a year ago to lead a national unity government, is widely considered the favourite.

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Draghi, 74, has not confirmed his interest but at an end-of-year press conference last month, left the door open to a move to the Quirinale presidential palace.

Former prime minister and billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has also been sounding out support for his own candidacy, although he faces significant opposition.

The winner is chosen by secret ballot of around 1,000 electors comprising senators, members of the Chamber of Deputies and representatives of Italy’s 20 regions.

They must secure at least two-thirds of votes in the first three rounds, or more than half thereafter.

Other potential candidates include former lower house speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini, EU commissioner and ex-premier Paolo Gentiloni, former Socialist premier Giuliano Amato, and Justice Minister Marta Cartabia – who if successful would be Italy’s first female head of state.

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COVID-19 RULES

Italy eases Covid measures ahead of new government

Italy's outgoing government is easing measures against coronavirus from Saturday despite an increase in cases, weeks before handing over to a far-right administration that has criticised the tough restrictions.

Italy eases Covid measures ahead of new government

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government said it would not renew regulations requiring FFP2 face masks to be worn on public transport – these expired on Friday.

However, it has extended for another month the requirement to wear face masks in hospitals and other healthcare settings, as well as residential facilities for the elderly.

READ ALSO:  Why are so many Italians still wearing face masks in shops?

By the time that rule expires on October 31, a new government led by far-right leader Giorgia Meloni is expected to be in place — with a very different attitude to Covid-19 restrictions than Draghi’s.

Italy was the first European country to face the full force of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, and has had some of the toughest restrictions.

Last winter, it required certain categories of workers to be vaccinated and demanded proof of a negative test, recent recovery from the virus or vaccination — the so-called Green pass — to enter public places.

READ ALSO: What is Italy’s Covid vaccination plan this autumn?

The pass was strongly criticised by Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which swept to a historic victory in elections on Sunday.

“We are against this certificate, full stop,” the party’s head of health policy, Marcello Gemmato, La Repubblica newspaper on Friday.

He said it gave “false security” because even after vaccination, people could get and spread coronavirus.

Gemmato said vaccines should be targeted at older people and those with health problems, but not be obligatory, adding that the requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated would not be renewed when it expires at
the end of the year.

READ ALSO: Italy gives green light to new dual-strain Covid vaccines

Cases of coronavirus are rising slightly again in Italy, likely due to the return of schools and universities.

More than 177,000 people with coronavirus have died in Italy since the start of the pandemic.

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