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Annalisa Scaletta: Italy’s Political Future Between a Rock and a Hard Place:

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Who Will Become the Next President?

Last December, the Economist named Italy “country of the year”, praising its successful vaccination campaign, effective EU post-pandemic recovery plan, and rapidly growing economy (The Economist 2021). After years of tumultuous politics and weak governance, Italy found in the current Prime Minister Mario Draghi a competent and internationally respected leader who – with the support of the incumbent President Sergio Mattarella – managed to restore the image of Italy worldwide. According to many, the Draghi-Mattarella pairing has had a reassuring effect on leaders of other countries, who perceive the new Italian government to be reliable (Saini 2022).

However, only a month after this remarkable endorsement, the upcoming presidential elections may reverse this unaccustomed burst of sensible governance (The Economist 2021). The 24th of January will mark the beginning of the voting procedures for the election of the new President and, with Mattarella officially refusing to run a second mandate, the most popular candidates seem to be Draghi and Berlusconi. But how do the presidential elections work? What role does the President have? What other candidates could challenge Berlusconi or Draghi? And most importantly, what would an eventual election of Draghi mean for Italy’s political stability?

How do the Italian Presidential Elections Work?

Since the end of the Second World War, Italy has been a parliamentary republic, meaning that it operates under a parliamentary system where the government is accountable to the parliament, directly elected by the citizens. The President is appointed by 1,008 ‘grand electors’ in a single session: the members of the two Chambers of the Parliament (630 for the Chamber of Deputies and 320 for the Senate) and 58 regional representatives. Voting takes place in the Chamber by secret ballot. In the first three ballots, a majority of two-thirds of the votes is required for election. As of the fourth ballot, an absolute majority is sufficient. According to the current numbers, in the first three ballots, 673 votes are needed to elect the head of state. From the fourth ballot, 505 votes will be sufficient.

What Role Does the President Have?

The head of state traditionally plays a stabilising role, supervising the action of political forces and being the guarantor of the Constitution. However, over the past years, the function of the president has become increasingly crucial for two main reasons: on the one hand, presidents have chosen to interpret their assignment in a less notary-like way and play a more active role in the decision-making process. On the other hand, the parties that populate the contemporary political arena have lost much of their agency and credibility (Saini 2022). It is this latter aspect that concerns experts the most, as it is directly mirrored in the scarcity of candidates to the presidency. Indeed, although electing a president from one’s political side represents a significant opportunity to influence the general balance of the country, no parties have strongly supported, let alone proposed, an alternative name so far.

What Other Candidates could Challenge Draghi and Berlusconi?

Up until now, political parties have hesitantly proposed only a few outsider names: the current Minister of Cultural Heritage Dario Franceschini, the former President of the Chamber of Deputies Pier Ferdinando Casini, the former Justice Minister Paola Severino, the former Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, and the former President of the Senate Marcello Pera (Cipolla & Rizzuti 2022).

Nonetheless, - even if one should not exclude twists and turns - public debate seems to be centered around the figures of Silvio Berlusconi and Mario Draghi.

On the right side of the political spectrum, right-wing parties (La Lega and Forza Italia) support the self-candidature of their founding father, Berlusconi, an otherwise unpopular figure among the public (Girardi 2022). The centre-left (especially Partito Democratico), on the other side, places all its hopes in the current prime minister, Draghi.

What Would an Eventual Election of Draghi Mean for Italy’s Political Stability?

Although Draghi is currently favoured in the polls and seems to be the candidate upon whom most political forces could eventually agree, his path to the presidency is not free from pitfalls. Indeed, Draghi’s mandate as prime minister should end in 2023, but were he elected president, he would have to resign from his current post and appoint his successor. This sudden change, however-as maintained by Berlusconi and right-wing parties- could constitute the final blow to the already fragile stability of the current government and eventually lead to early elections (Il Fatto Quotidiano 2021). On a slightly different note, the Economist (in the same article where it endorsed Italy as country of the year) expressed its concern that Draghi may be succeeded by a less competent prime minister who could endanger the newly restored image of Italy on the international stage (The Economist 2021).

Looking at the current scenario, the possibility of a win-win situation seems quite remote but not yet impossible. What is left to do for the Italian (and worldwide) public is to wait and see what will happen on the 24th of January, when the 1,008 grand electors will be called to express their vote.

Written by Annalisa Scaletta, Amsterdam Chapter of European Horizons


Cipolla, Alessandro, and Stefano Rizzuti. 2022. “Elezione Presidente della Repubblica 2022:

Quando e come si Vota, Favoriti e Sondaggi.”, January 4, 2022.

Girardi, Annalisa. 2022. “Forza Italia vuole Berlusconi al Quirinale, Iniziano i Dialoghi tra

Partiti: Idem mettono il Veto.”, January 8, 2022.

Il Fatto Quotidiano. 2022. "Draghi al Colle, Berlusconi contrario: "Resti Premier Fino al

2023." Pure Salvini Scettico: "Se va via lui del Domani non c’è Certezza".” December

Saini, Valentina. 2021. “Who Will Become Italy's Next President?” The Euobserver,

Serra, Michele. 2022. “Quirinale, l'uomo solo nel Vuoto del Paese.” La Repubblica, January

4, 2022.

The Economist. 2021. “Which is The Economist’s Country of the Year for 2021?” December

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