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Italy gears up for presidential election

MPs, regional reps start voting for new head of State Monday

(ANSA) - ROME, JAN 21 - Lawmakers from both houses of parliament and regional representatives will start the process of electing Italy's new president on Monday.
    In total 1009 'grand electors' will decide on who succeeds President Sergio Mattarella, whose seven-year term is coming to an end.
    They are comprised of 321 Senators, 630 Lower House MPs and 58 regional delegates - three for each region, except for Valle d'Aosta, which gets only one.
    There is set to be one vote a day and a majority of two-thirds of the 'grand electors', 673, is needed to vote in a new president in the first three ballots.
    After which a simple majority of 505 is sufficient.
    On Friday Premier Mario Draghi's government passed a decree to allow the 'grand electors' who are positive for COVID-19 to go out to vote at a 'drive-through' voting station that is being set up for them in the Lower House's car park.
    The leaders of Italy's political parties have been holding meeting for days in view of the election and talks are intensifying as the election approaches.
    The president is much more than a figurehead and symbol of national unity.
    Under the Constitution, the head of State acts as a sort of referee of Italian politics and the role is especially important at times of political crisis.
    The centre right has been considering backing ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi to be Mattarella's replacement but there are doubts about the Forza Italia leader's chances of taking the top job due to staunch opposition from the Democratic Party (PD) and the 5-Star Movement (M5S).
    They have been saying the president should be a more impartial figure.
    ANSA sources said Berlusconi was set to decide whether to seek election as president by Sunday.
    Vittorio Sgarbi, an art critic and Forza Italia MP, said the media billionaire might be thinking about an alternative name to propose instead of his own.
    League leader Matte Salvini said Friday that he would "make one or two high-level proposals" that no one would be able to veto.
    Draghi is among the favourites to be the nation's next president, although if the former ECB chief is elected head of State, it could lead to early elections.
    This is because many find it hard to imagine the broad spectrum of parties supporting his national unity executive agreeing to get behind another figure.
    There has also been talk of Mattarella being re-elected, something that has only happened once previously, with his predecessor Giorgio Napolitano, and staying on, although possibly not for the whole of the seven-year term.
    The 80-year-old appeared to rule that out on Thursday, telling the the judiciary's self-governing body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM), that it will soon be presided over by a new head of State. (ANSA).
   

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