The re-election of 87-year-old Italian President Giorgio Napolitano raised hopes of an end to a two-month impasse on forming a new government, but failed to answer calls for change, experts said yesterday.
Napolitano had ruled out standing again, but changed his mind on Saturday, becoming the first president ever to do so after parliament proved incapable of electing another candidate and rival parties appealed to him for help.
“In this context of a failure of politics they see him as the only resource that can overcome this systemic crisis,” said Marzio Breda, a presidential politics expert for the top-selling Corriere della Sera daily.
“Public opinion is becoming ever more distant from traditional politics,” he said, after a rally outside the parliament building in Rome on Saturday drew thousands of people protesting against Napolitano’s re-election.
The parties have been at loggerheads ever since a general election in February that was narrowly won by the center-left, but failed to produce a parliamentary majority.
“He can go on for one or two years and then he would resign. This too would be a first, but the pope did it so the president can do it too,” Breda said.
Corriere della Sera editorialist Sergio Romano said: “We have reason to hope that this institutional novelty ... will be a spur for the country to shed the pessimism of recent months.”
However, Ezio Mauro, editor of La Repubblica daily, said the election showed Italy’s political world and the democratic system itself were under “extreme pressure.”
Analysts said Napolitano would most likely move swiftly to set up a short-term government similar to the outgoing one of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti with a mandate to carry out much-needed reforms, although with a Cabinet made up of both party political and “technocratic” ministers.
Early elections would likely still have to be held, but the prospect of a vote within months, which had raised concern on the financial markets, would be staved off.
It would be “an emergency government”, said Stefano Folli, columnist for business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, which has urged bickering politicians to act fast as Italy endures a painful recession that has triggered a social crisis.
“Napolitano’s decision has to be read as an impulse to political forces to act,” Folli said, adding that his election with a sweeping majority showed there was a basis for a government with a “limited, but concrete agenda.”
Analysts also noted that with his re-election Napolitano had re-gained the power to dissolve parliament and call early elections, since presidents are prevented from doing so in the last six months of their mandate.
Napolitano “might stay for one or two years. It’s as if the political system has bought time,” said Mario Calabresi, editor of La Stampa daily. “But if this time is used just to stay in this paralysis then the country will be even more angry, tired, exhausted and stuck in one or two years.
“This time has to be best used to provide answers to the citizens,” he said.
Il Sole-24 Ore editor-in-chief Roberto Napoletano wrote yesterday: “We fervently hope that [Napolitano’s] re-election is not just a Bandaid on a deep wound, an aspirin to lower the fever, or even worse a way to gain time and put off solutions.”