secret ballot underway for new Italian president

Vote for Italian President remains in deadlock


The second day of secret ballot has again resulted in a failure to elect a new president. Party leaders are struggling to find a consensus candidate.

On Monday, the majority of votes were blank, leading to a stalemate. The majority of lawmakers once again cast blank ballots on Tuesday – a way of playing for time while their leaders decide what to do.

After days of behind-the-scenes meetings, centre-right parties named three possible candidates from conservative ranks that they said deserved consideration – a former Senate speaker, a former mayor of Milan, and a retired magistrate.

The centre-left bloc swiftly dismissed the trio and called for talks with the centre-right on Wednesday to resolve the dispute.

“Our proposal is to lock ourselves in a room and throw away the keys, with only bread and water on hand until we reach a definitive solution,” said Enrico Letta, head of the co-ruling Democratic Party (PD).

Prime Minister Mario Draghi remains a frontrunner. However, concerns his promotion to president might cause his coalition government to disintegrate have clouded his prospects. Some politicians argue he should remain in place to avoid any let-up in the battle against COVID-19 and ensure Italy receives billions of euros from EU pandemic relief funds.

Secret ballot rather than popular vote

In Italy, unlike other presidential countries such as France and the USA, the vote is a secret ballot with lawmakers rather than a popular vote.

Party leaders often struggle to control the voting as the 1,009 parliamentarians and regional representatives choose the new president by secret ballot.

Neither the centre-right nor centre-left have sufficient votes to push through their own candidate. Therefore, a compromise is required.

Whilst many see the presidential role as purely ceremonial, the incumbent is often called upon to resolve political crises that regularly affect the country. The role comes with a seven-year mandate.

Wednesday’s vote is not looking positive and is almost certain to end in failure. A successful candidate needs a two-thirds majority in any of the first three rounds of voting, with only an absolute majority required in subsequent rounds. The race will become serious on Thursday, when the threshold for victory falls.

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