Mattarella: political world reacts to re-election of Italy president

News in Italy: Mattarella becomes second most-voted president in Italian history.

Leaders in Italy and around the world welcomed the re-election of Italian president Sergio Mattarella who was returned to office last night in a landslide result.

Mattarella received 759 votes out of a total of 983 voters from the electoral college, far beyond the required quorum of 505, and more than the 665 he received when he was first elected in 2015.

This makes him the second most voted president after Sandro Pertini who received 832 votes in 1978.

The 80-year-old Mattarella was elected on the sixth day of voting, at the eighth ballot, just days before his seven-year term was due to end on 3 February.

His election came after party leaders convinced him to reconsider his retirement plans and accept a second mandate "for the stability" of Italy, amid a failure by lawmakers to agree on a compromise candidate for the office.

After the vote, the re-elected president made a very brief address, saying he felt a "sense of responsibility" to remain in office in light of the health and economic challenges facing the nation.

Mattarella, who had packed up his belongings and was ready to swap the Quirinal Palace for an apartment in Rome next week, added that the situation required "not shirking duty" which "must prevail over other personal choices".

"Splendid news"

Italy's premier Mario Draghi - who until days ago had been hotly tipped to become president but will now remain as prime minister - hailed the "splendid news for Italians", offering his gratitude to Mattarella for "his choice to support the very strong will of parliament to re-elect him for a second term."

Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) posted a picture of the pencil he used to vote for Mattarella in the final ballot, saying he would keep it as a "beautiful" souvenir, and said the result was a "victory for everyone."

Silvio Berlusconi, who withdrew his bid for presidency a week ago, praised Mattarella "from whom we know we are asking for a great sacrifice, but we also know that we can ask him in the higher interests of the country."

Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing Lega party, thanked Mattarella, underlining that he should "not be perceived as a stopgap president."

The only party leader expressly unhappy was Giorgia Meloni, of the far-right Fratelli d'Italia, who earlier in the day had expressed her incredulity that her ally in the centre-right bloc Salvini was proposing the re-election of Mattarella.

After the winning vote she posted a video of the sustained applause that greeted the result in the chamber, with the message: "MPs euphoric for not having changed anything and forcing Mattarella to another term. What are they celebrating? That their salary is safe".

Reaction from world leaders

News of Mattarella's election was welcomed by US president Joe Biden who said he looks forward to "continuing our efforts to further strengthen US-Italy ties, deepen the transatlantic partnership, and address common global challenges."

French president Emmanuel Macron posted a message in Italian to "dear Sergio", stating: "I know I can count on your commitment to ensure the friendship between our countries and this united, strong and prosperous Europe that we are building".

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, congratulated Mattarella in a tweet in Italian, saying: "Italy can always count on the EU."

Pope Francis extended his congratulations to the president for the high office "which he welcomed with a spirit of generous availability", assuring Mattarella of his prayers "so that he may continue to support the dear Italian people in building an ever more fraternal coexistence and encouraging them to face the future with hope."

Role of Italy's president

A largely ceremonial position, Italy's president plays a key role during times of political crisis and has the power to appoint a prime minister and give mandates to form a government.

The president's term of office is seven years, meaning that if Mattarella completes his second mandate - due to end in 2029 - he will be 87 years old.

It is unclear however if Mattarella intends to serve the full term, with some political commentators suggesting that he might step aside to make way for Draghi after elections in 2023.

Photo Il Manifesto