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POLITICS

Italian right backs Berlusconi’s bid for presidency

Italy's right-wing parties agreed Friday to support former premier and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi in his bid to become head of state, ten days before voting begins in parliament.   

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi takes off his face mask as he prepares to address the media, as he leaves the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on September 14, 2020 after he tested posititive for coronavirus and was hospitalized since September 3
Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi takes off his face mask as he prepares to address the media, as he leaves the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan on September 14, 2020 after he tested posititive for coronavirus and was hospitalized since September 3. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

The declaration came after Berlusconi, 85, met with Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League party and Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy.

A joint statement from their self-styled “centre-right” bloc said the office of Italy’s president represented national unity, emphasising the importance of “authority, balance and international prestige”.

“The leaders of the coalition have agreed that Silvio Berlusconi is the right person to hold the high office in this difficult situation, with the authority and experience that the country deserves and that Italians expect.”

READ ALSO: Who could be elected as Italy’s next president?

Berlusconi was prime minister for his centre-right Forza Italia party three times between 1994 and 2011.

His supporters had already made clear his ambition to succeed Sergio Mattarella, who steps down as Italy’s president after a seven-year term on February 3rd.

Just over 1,000 senators, MPs and regional representatives will begin choosing a new president in secret ballots beginning on January 24th, a process that is expected to take several days.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi has also intimated he wants the job, without making any formal declaration.

READ ALSO: What will happen if PM Mario Draghi becomes Italy’s next president?

Parachuted in by Mattarella a year ago to take over a fragile national unity government, Draghi, a former central banker who has no party of his own, risks being ousted in 2023 elections.

Italy’s president plays a largely ceremonial role but wields significant political influence, notably as arbiter in times of crisis.

Many commentators believe Berlusconi has no chance of succeeding in the presidential race. He has suffered a string of health issues in recent years and is still battling legal action over his “Bunga Bunga” sex parties.

However, he has made it known that if Draghi becomes president, Forza Italia will leave the government.

This runs the risk of collapsing the coalition, which includes all Italy’s main parties barring Meloni’s, and sparking early elections.

The new president must secure at least two-thirds of votes in the first three rounds, or an absolute majority thereafter.

Other potential candidates include former lower house speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini, EU commissioner and ex-premier Paolo Gentiloni, former Socialist premier Giuliano Amato, and Justice Minister Marta Cartabia – who if successful would be Italy’s first female head of state.

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POLITICS

Italy plans to stop ‘revolving door’ between judges and politicians

Italian lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a planned reform aimed at stopping the 'revolving door' between justice and government, as part of wider changes to the country's creaking judicial system.

Italy plans to stop 'revolving door' between judges and politicians

The proposed reform, which still has to be approved by the Italian Senate in the coming weeks, imposes significant limitations on the number of magistrates, prosecutors and judges looking to go into politics – a frequent move in Italy.

Under the submitted changes, a magistrate wishing to stand for election, whether national, regional or local, will not be able to do so in the region where they have worked over the previous three years.

At the end of their mandate, magistrates who have held elective positions will not be able to return to the judiciary – they will be moved to non-jurisdictional posts at, for example, the Court of Auditors or the Supreme Court of Cassation, according to local media reports.

Furthermore, magistrates who have applied for elective positions but have not been successful for at least three years will no longer be able to work in the region where they ran for office. 

The reform is part of a wider programme of changes to Italy’s tortuous judicial system. This is required by the European Commission to unlock billions of euros in the form of post-pandemic recovery funds.

Public perception of the independence of Italian courts and judges is among the worst in Europe, according to the EU’s justice scoreboard.

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