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Italy presidential vote begins, political upheaval ahead with reforms


The picture below shows an area of the Quirinale Presidential Palace, in central Rome on January 4, 2022.

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A secret ballot to elect Italy’s next president begins on Monday — with Prime Minister Mario Draghi among the favorites to take up the seven-year post at the presidential palace.

Although the vote occurs ahead of what is likely to be a heated and contentious period in Italy’s reforms, many legislators want Draghi in the premiership to continue overseeing the structural changes required to unlock crucial EU funds.

However, Draghi will be elected president. This could lead to an eventual snap election, if Draghi’s current coalition is torn apart by 2023 when the next parliamentary elections are scheduled.

Silvio Berlusconi (a former Prime Minister and businessman) resigned at the weekend from the presidential race. The four-times veteran politician told his supporters that they should “give up” on him being considered a potential contender.

Although the 85-year old had attempted to get lawmakers to back his bid for President Sergio Mattarella’s replacement, the opposition center-left bloc in the country opposed Mattarella’s appointment. They claimed that Mattarella was too impartial to accept the symbolic, but largely ceremonial role.

Over 1,000 Italian representatives and legislators will vote for their new president starting Monday. It’s a complicated and confusing process, likely to require multiple rounds.

To win, a candidate must receive the majority vote. To win, you must have a majority vote in each round. In the third and fourth rounds, the majority has to be two-thirds.

A president is rarely elected by the second round if they have the required two thirds majority. The process will likely last for a few days with the winner expected to be announced by the middle of next week.

It is currently an open race with many political parties supporting or opposing Draghi.

While he is seen to be a favorite, the lawmakers and representatives can nominate anyone (well, almost anyone — the candidate has to registered to vote, over 50 years old and not barred from holding public office) for the role, and it’s by no means certain that he will be elected.

Given his record as premier, many lawmakers said that Draghi should be retained. Draghi was the head of the European Central Bank in the past and has helped stabilize Italy’s political system. It is well-known for its instability and constantly changing government. This has given confidence to investors in Italy’s debt-laden economic.

Anna Rosenberg of Signum Global Advisors’ Europe and U.K. head, said Draghi was “certainly the most well-known name and one that receives support from many different individuals from all the parties.”

He’s the only person who has been capable of holding together such a complex coalition. There are many political interests that Draghi may not like. This is why Draghi’s victory here isn’t a sure thing.”

Political bickering and reforms

Draghi might be motivated to leave his post, but Draghi may also want to stay as prime minister. This is because Italy must implement a lot of structural reforms by 2026 to qualify for billions in EU recovery funds.

Rosenberg explained that Draghi wanted to step out as his prime minister in order to run for the presidency. Although he didn’t say it clearly, one reason is that he doesn’t want to get bogged down by the political bickering about to begin.

“We are heading to elections now, whatever happens in 2023. It is time to become really politically active.” It is still waiting on some very important reforms, and they are likely to prove contentious.

It was noted by her that the reforms to fiscal issues, public procurement and teachers’ salaries could all lead into political conflict.

Draghi in or Draghi Out, there will be intense political bickering between whoever sits at the table. [presidential]”Prime minister” and the palace. It is impossible for Italy to not implement these reforms. She stated that Italy must do so and should implement all of them, as the EU funds are crucial to the country’s survival.

CNBC was informed by Gianfranco Paquino, an Italian political scientist, and professor at University of Bologna that Draghi would mean more instability for Italian politics.

“There’s no precedent. There has never been a previous prime minister who was elected president of the Republic. Mario Draghi’s election will create a new government, which will prove difficult,” he said to CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe.

“A government crisis is very dangerous at this time, because we’re trying produce projects to receive the European money, European funds.”

Pasquino stated that although political uncertainty in Italy is not new, Pasquino noted that the Presidential choice this year was especially difficult. It’s difficult for even him at the moment. [Draghi] personally. What is best for the country — for him to be president of the Republic or for him to continue as prime minister?”