Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi signalled on Wednesday he would be willing to become head of state. The position of president falls vacant early next year.
Draghi says his unity government has already completed much of its agenda.
Parliament will convene to choose a new president in January. The former European Central Bank chief is the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Sergio Mattarella. He may be up against Silvio Berlusconi, who intimated he’s ready to fight for the position.
Draghi said his 10-month-old administration had laid the foundations for key work to continue, including implementation of a multi-billion-euro EU recovery fund.
“We have created the conditions for the work to continue, regardless of who is there,” Draghi said at a traditional end-of-year news conference. He made clear he is ready to shift roles if parliamentarians wanted it.
“My personal destiny is of no importance, I have no particular ambitions. I am, if you like, a grandfather in the service of the institutions,” Draghi said.
If Draghi switched positions, the government would automatically require a new leader. However, Draghi said it was important for the broad coalition to remain intact until the scheduled end of the parliamentary term in 2023.
“It is essential for the legislature to continue until its natural end to continue the action of fighting the pandemic, boosting growth and implementing the EU fund,” he said.
Presidency needed to break deadlock
The Italian president is increasingly powerful as the role needs to resolve political deadlock. In recent years, it has had to negotiate after national elections and overcome subsequent coalition crises.
If Draghi becomes head of state, he will be able to help guide the country from behind the scenes. That would be reassuring for investors long concerned by Italy’s huge debt mountain and unstable politics.
Election of president
Candidates for president do not usually declare themselves in advance of the election. However, with Berlusconi dropping far from subtle hints, Draghi appears to be following suit.
The vote for the presidency is held via a secret vote of lawmakers from both the upper and lower houses, as well as representatives from Italy’s 20 regions.
If Draghi did get the job, his first action would be to appoint a new prime minister, and to stop the coalition from unravelling.