ROME — Italian President Sergio Mattarella was pulled away from his impending retirement and reelected Saturday to a second seven-year term as the country’s head of state, ending days of political impasse by party leaders that risked eroding the nation’s credibility.
Earlier Saturday, lawmakers entreated Mattarella, 80, who had said repeatedly he didn’t want a second mandate, to change his mind after lawmakers in Parliament and regional delegates voted fruitlessly for days, trying to reach a consensus on other possible candidates.
Mattarella won in the eighth round of voting when he clinched the minimum of 505 votes needed from the eligible 1,009 Grand Electors. Applause broke out in Parliament, prompting the Chamber of Deputies president to interrupt his reading of the ballots. The count then resumed, with Mattarella going on to win 759 votes.
In a brief, televised statement from the Quirinal presidential palace, Mattarella told the nation he couldn’t let his personal desires prevail over a “sense of responsibility” during the ”grave health, economic and social emergency” Italy was enduring in the COVID- 19 pandemic. He added his commitment “to interpret the expectations and hopes of our fellow citizens.”
Mattarella’s first term ends Thursday. Ahead of the presidential election this week, Mattarella had even rented an apartment in Rome to prepare for his move from the presidential palace.
But after a seventh round of balloting in six days in Parliament failed to yield any consensus on a presidential candidate, party whips and regional governors visited Mattarella at the presidential palace Saturday to reenlist him.
Draghi hailed Mattarella’s re-election as “splendid news for Italians.”
“I am grateful to the president for his choice in accommodating the very strong will of Parliament to re-elect him to a second mandate,” the prime minister said.
“You don’t change a winning team,” former Premier Matteo Renzi told reporters ahead of the final vote.
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who heads the center-right Forza Italia party he founded and who a week earlier dropped his own bid to be president, said that unity “today can only be found around” the figure of Mattarella.
The head of the populist 5-Star Movement, Parliament’s largest force, former Premier Giuseppe Conte, also praised Mattarella as “the guarantor of everybody, impartial, authoritative.″
Conte’s praise for Mattarella was all the more remarkable considering how, when Conte was trying to form Italy’s first populist-led government in 2018, Mattarella vetoed his pick of a euro-skeptic economist for the post of finance minister, an appointment likely to have shaken financial markets’ faith in Italy.
Also lobbying for Mattarella was right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini, whose candidates failed to take off in the early rounds. In 2019, Salvini suffered the humiliation of seeing Mattarella turn to Conte to form a government, this time without the League, after Salvini yanked his support in a failed bid to grab the premiership for himself.
But analysts noted the possible fallout from the spectacle of the nation’s top political leaders squabbling for days.
“There is a tangible risk that within the ruling majority infighting will become more pronounced in the months ahead as the fruitless and chaotic efforts to replace Mattarella have left deep scars on the parties and their leaders,” said Wolfango Piccoli of Teneo, a consulting and advisory firm.