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Is Italy About to Bid Farewell to Mr President Napolitano?

Rumours are growing in Italy that the nation’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, is to step down. That 89 year old Mr Napolitano has neither confirmed not denied the rumours is fuelling speculation.

Really though, Italy should never have ended up with Giorgio Napolitano as president for a second term. He returned to the presidential seat of Italy merely because Italy’s bickering politicians were unable to agree upon a replacement. As a result, they asked Mr Napolitano if he would be prepared to accept the position once more – something unheard of in Italy. He agreed and was re-elected. However, at the time of his re-election, Mr Napolitano did state that he probably would not see out his full term.

Giorgio Napolitano has proven to be somewhat controversial in that he has adopted a much more hands on role than his position, arguably, allows for. Part of the reason for this pro-active approach is the chaos which has reigned in Italian politics ever since the downfall of Silvio Berlusconi in November 2011.

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As Italy’s president, Napolitano has attempted to steer Italy away from what was looking very much like institutional meltdown. To an extent, Mr Napolitano succeeded, though he does appear to have placed democracy in Italy on hold. Part of the reason for this is that if general elections were to be held, Italy’s election law would most probably lead to the creation of a hung parliament. In times of economic crisis, this would create enormous problems for Italy.

Seeing as the electoral law issue still has not been resolved and that Italian politics remains chaotic, what is not clear yet is why Italy’s president may be mulling over handing in his resignation. One possibility is that he was recently called to testify in court in connection with investigations into whether or not Italy’s government entered into a pact with the mafia in the early 1990s. That a nation’s president should even be called to testify in such a case may call into question the integrity of the individual concerned. Such a situation may cause Italy to lose confidence at international level and with Italy edging closer and closer to defaulting on its enormous national debt, Italy will want to inspire confidence.

The question is, if Mr Napolitano does go, who will replace him? For now, no candidates have been formally proposed. Perhaps a search for a potential replacements is in progress now and once a few candidates have been identified, Giorgio Napolitano will retire. We shall see – perhaps by the end of this year.

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