Italian president set to skip new term, making PM frontrunner

In this file photo taken on Feb 13, 2021, Italian President Sergio Mattarella (left) and Prime Minister Mario Draghi pose for a photo after the new cabinet ministers swearing-in ceremony, at the Quirinale Presidential Palace in Rome. (GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / POOL / AFP)

Italian President Sergio Mattarella tried to quash speculation that he could stay on for a second term, leaving Prime Minister Mario Draghi as the top contender for the role early next year.

Analysts in Italy have long suggested that reappointing Mattarella was the smoothest path of assuring the continuation of Draghi’s government. While the former central banker has a broad majority in parliament, a messy political battle over the selection of the new president might destabilize his coalition.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday said he agreed with former heads of state who’d suggested that the Italian presidency be a one-mandate-only position

Draghi’s move to the presidential palace would put an early end to his government, and leave the door open to doubts about the continuation of Italy’s reform efforts.

Mattarella on Thursday said he agreed with former heads of state who’d suggested that the Italian presidency be a one-mandate-only position. Mattarella’s predecessor, Giorgio Napolitano, accepted to be reelected and resign early when parliament couldn’t agree on a new president.

Although their post is long on symbolic value and short on real power, Italian presidents wield significant responsibilities. They head the armed forces, can send legislation back to parliament and, most importantly, have the final say in naming premiers and ministers, a power that has proved pivotal to the country several times.

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Mattarella reportedly signed a lease for a new home in Rome, widely viewed as a signal that he intends to move out of the Quirinale presidential palace when his seven-year term expires in January.