Italy has witnessed a dramatic week. The Italian parliament was called in to elect a new President of the Republic. In normal times this could have been a straight forward affair, since the post is of mainly representative nature. But these are not normal times. With the economy in free fall, the unemployment rate on a level not seen in two decades and the trust in the political class on an all-time low, the President is now regarded as the only institution able to hold the Italian Republic together, not a minor assignment by any means. The task has fallen again onto Giorgio Napolitano‘s (age 87) shoulders.
Let’s recap. The general elections held on 24./25.02.2013 did not produce an explicit mandate for either of the main parties, far from it. Bersani’s Partito Democratico (PD), Berlusconi’s Popolo della Liberta’ (PdL) and Beppe Grillo’s Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) all collected roughly 30 percent of the votes and Monti’s Scelta Civica the remaining 10 percent (results here). Bersani, on paper the winner of the elections, failed to form a government. He ruled out right from the start an alliance with Berlusconi. Instead he engaged in negotiations with representatives of M5S which in turn weren’t interested to commit themselves to anything or anyone.
The result was political deadlock that dragged on well into the presidential elections. The search for the best available person for the job was dominated or rather contaminated by party intrigues that left behind many injured and some fatally hit: Franco Marini (common candidate of PD and PdL, eliminated after the first round), Romano Prodi (PD candidate burnt during the fourth round), Bersani, the PD and, who knows, the Italian Republic itself. The call for Napolitano to accept a second term, unprecedented in the history of the state, just underlines the profoundness of the current crisis. The political class is no longer able to create a vision of the future or in other words to do politics.
Beppe Severgnini (columnist for the daily Corriere delle Sera) and the ever unerring analyst of his country and his country fellows commented in a tweet on the re-election of Napolitano by quoting IF by Joseph Rudyard Kipling: IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs..
Let’s hope that Napolitano keeps his head until a renewed and reformed political structure can carry the country into the future. It must not take the full 7 years of his term.