By Alvise Armellini
ADDS BELLONI’S CANDIDACY, RESULT OF 6TH VOTE; CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK
ROME (AA) - Italy remained in political limbo Friday as the latest proposal to solve a deadlocked presidential election, spy chief Elisabetta Belloni, sparked a furious row that raised the prospect of a government crisis.
Belloni, 63, would be the country’s first female head of state.
Her candidacy gained traction after the leader of the far-right League, Matteo Salvini, said he was working to give Italy “a female president.”
He was echoed by former Premier Giuseppe Conte, leader of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S).
Comedian Beppe Grillo, founder of M5S, then tweeted: “Welcome Lady Italy, we have been waiting for you for a long time. #Elisabetta Belloni.”
But Matteo Renzi, another ex-premier and leader of the centrist Italy Alive party, said it was “unacceptable” for the sitting head of the intelligence services to become head of state, calling it dangerous for democracy.
He called it an “unprecedented institutional error.”
Other parties including Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s national unity government, Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia, the leftist LeU and the center-right Coraggio Italia, expressed similar misgivings.
The Democratic Party, another key coalition member, hinted at the possibility of solving the deadlock by reappointing outgoing President Sergio Mattarella, even though he said he wants to retire. His seven-year term ends Feb. 3.
The presidential election, which started Monday, is paralyzing Italy’s politics amid the raging coronavirus pandemic, public concern about rising energy prices, the need to implement reforms linked to EU funds and the risk of war between Russia and Ukraine.
It is being decided by 1,009 national and regional lawmakers in a process compared to a papal conclave because it is unpredictable and rife with intrigue. Six votes have taken place -- all inconclusive.
The latest ended with 445 abstentions and 336 votes for Mattarella. In the previous one, a center-right attempt spearheaded by Salvini to elect Senate Speaker Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati flopped.
Draghi, who has been a top contender for the presidency, said in December that the election should have been resolved consensually, with the backing of all parties in his grand coalition.
Parties agreed in principle but failed in practice to find common ground, despite multiple warnings that a partisan, rather than consensual solution could wreck the ruling alliance and bring down the government.
Draghi has struggled to find support for his presidential ambitions, amid concern that his promotion also risked triggering a crisis as parties already at odds about the head of state would struggle to agree on a replacement prime minister.
In Italy, presidents are the cornerstone of the political system, serving a seven-year tenure, while prime ministers change almost yearly.
Presidents name prime ministers, call elections, influence government policy discreetly and can veto laws or ministerial appointments.
Voting on the president is set to continue Saturday.