Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 85, announced on Saturday that he was renouncing to be a candidate for the presidency of the Republic, a prestigious post for which voting begins Monday in Parliament. The billionaire had been campaigning behind the scenes for weeks to replace incumbent President Sergio Mattarella, although observers doubt he has the necessary votes.

In a press release on the sidelines of a virtual meeting with other right-wing leaders, Silvio Berlusconi assured that he had the necessary votes but that in a spirit of “national responsibility”, he had asked his supporters to withdraw his name. “Today Italy needs unity,” he said, referring to the coronavirus epidemic: “I will continue to serve my country in a different way.”

A mandate in progress

Mario Draghi, the current Prime Minister at the head of a government of national unity and former head of the European Central Bank is the favourite.

But Silvio Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party takes part in the government, prefers that he remain in office until the 2023 elections. “I consider it necessary for the Draghi government to complete its work until the end of the legislature”, he said in a statement sent by his spokesperson.

This would allow Mario Draghi to carry out the reforms of the tax and judicial system, and of the administration, promised in exchange for the billions of euros of the European Union’s post-pandemic recovery plan, he explained. .

A ceremonial president?

The President of the Italian Republic, in an essentially ceremonial role, exercises considerable power in the event of a political crisis, whether it involves dissolving Parliament, choosing the Prime Minister or refusing mandates to fragile coalitions.

A thousand senators, deputies and regional representatives will begin voting on Monday. To be elected, two-thirds of the votes are needed in the first three rounds, then an absolute majority in the following rounds.

Due to Covid security measures, each round will take one day and, as tradition dictates, there are theoretically no official candidates.

On January 13, Silvio Berlusconi offered a dithyrambic page to his glory in the right-wing daily Il Giornale, owned by his family. A 25-line list, under a photo, extolled his qualities, including “hero of freedom” who “ended the cold war” and “example for all Italians”.

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