SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Italian right backs Berlusconi’s bid for presidency

Italy's right-wing parties agreed Friday to support former premier and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi in his bid to become head of state, ten days before voting begins in parliament.   

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi takes off his face mask as he prepares to address the media, as he leaves the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on September 14, 2020 after he tested posititive for coronavirus and was hospitalized since September 3
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi takes off his face mask as he prepares to address the media, as he leaves the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on September 14, 2020 after he tested posititive for coronavirus and was hospitalized since September 3. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

The declaration came after Berlusconi, 85, met with Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League party and Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy.

A joint statement from their self-styled “centre-right” bloc said the office of Italy’s president represented national unity, emphasising the importance of “authority, balance and international prestige”.

“The leaders of the coalition have agreed that Silvio Berlusconi is the right person to hold the high office in this difficult situation, with the authority and experience that the country deserves and that Italians expect.”

READ ALSO: Who could be elected as Italy’s next president?

Berlusconi was prime minister for his centre-right Forza Italia party three times between 1994 and 2011.

His supporters had already made clear his ambition to succeed Sergio Mattarella, who steps down as Italy’s president after a seven-year term on February 3rd.

Just over 1,000 senators, MPs and regional representatives will begin choosing a new president in secret ballots beginning on January 24th, a process that is expected to take several days.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi has also intimated he wants the job, without making any formal declaration.

READ ALSO: What will happen if PM Mario Draghi becomes Italy’s next president?

Parachuted in by Mattarella a year ago to take over a fragile national unity government, Draghi, a former central banker who has no party of his own, risks being ousted in 2023 elections.

Italy’s president plays a largely ceremonial role but wields significant political influence, notably as arbiter in times of crisis.

Many commentators believe Berlusconi has no chance of succeeding in the presidential race. He has suffered a string of health issues in recent years and is still battling legal action over his “Bunga Bunga” sex parties.

However, he has made it known that if Draghi becomes president, Forza Italia will leave the government.

This runs the risk of collapsing the coalition, which includes all Italy’s main parties barring Meloni’s, and sparking early elections.

The new president must secure at least two-thirds of votes in the first three rounds, or an absolute majority 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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

Biden warns Italy over election results as Draghi receives award from Ukraine

The US President Joe Biden warned that global ‘democracy is at stake’ as Italy’s outgoing PM Mario Draghi received one of Ukraine’s most prestigious awards.

Biden warns Italy over election results as Draghi receives award from Ukraine

President Joe Biden cited the far-right’s election success in Italy as evidence of what he regarded as a danger to democracy around the world, including in the United States.    

“You just saw what’s happened in Italy in that election. You’re seeing what’s happening around the world,” Biden told Democratic party governors at a late meeting on Wednesday, referring to the win by far-right leader Giorgia Meloni in Italy.   

READ ALSO: Italy will not recognise Russian referendums, says Draghi

“We can’t be sanguine about what’s happening here either,” Biden said, pointing to what he sees as anti-democratic forces led by former president Donald Trump in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

Biden said that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had told him “straight up that democracies can’t be sustained in the 21st century”. 

He added: “I don’t want to exaggerate it, but I don’t want to understate it. And it’s the reason why I’m so concerned. Democracy is at stake.”

In the meantime, Italy’s outgoing PM Mario Draghi is set to receive one of Ukraine’s most prestigious awards from President Volodymyr Zelensky, Draghi’s press office said on Thursday.  

Prime minister of Italy Mario Draghi (L) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky following their meeting in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.

Italy’s outgoing PM is set to receive the prestigious Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise award from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

Draghi told Zelensky that he was “honoured and moved” to be given the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise of the first degree, and “happy to receive it from your hands in Kyiv”, according to Rome’s readout of a phone call between the pair.

Established in 1995 by President Leonid Kuchma, the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, is awarded for services to the state and people of Ukraine. The medal of the order has a blue ribbon with a yellow stripe on each side.

Draghi has been one of the strongest backers of EU sanctions against Russia over the war, and Rome has sent several weapon shipments to help Kyiv.

In its own statement, the Ukrainian presidency’s office said Zelensky had praised Draghi’s role “among the names of political leaders who have supported Ukraine” since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Draghi will have to step down when a new government takes office following last Sunday’s elections, which were won by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right coalition.  

READ ALSO: Italy’s Salvini calls for Europe to ‘rethink’ sanctions on Russia

After her victory, Meloni said Ukraine could count on Italy’s support.   

Despite her former Euroscepticism, the Brothers of Italy leader has firmly backed Draghi’s position thus far. However, her government allies, far-right League leader Matteo Salvini and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, have long had concerning ties with Moscow.   

SHOW COMMENTS