As Italy faces a deep political crisis, the fate of the country is in the hands of an octogenarian former communist only weeks from retirement. Under Italy’s constitution, President Giorgio Napolitano, 87, is charged with trying to find the way out of an intractable impasse caused by a huge protest vote in the Feb 24-25 election, which saw no group emerge with enough support to govern. The task is exceedingly difficult, but if anybody can succeed it is probably Napolitano, who enjoys both huge respect and popularity, and has shown skill in navigating previous major storms in Italy. In fact after an election in which Italians vented their rage against the politicians, he may be the only traditional political figure left who commands much respect at all. Napolitano has stepped into the breach in a moment of emergency before, in November 2011, when Italy faced a perilous debt crisis. He engineered the replacement of scandal-plagued premier Silvio Berlusconi with technocrat Mario Monti.
But things are more complicated now. Napolitano is now at the end of his seven-year term and must be replaced by mid-May.
Given that the crisis could take weeks to resolve, it is possible that whoever he finally chooses to be prime minister could be sworn in by his successor in a situation which would be bizarre even by Italian standards.
“It would be as if a young woman promised in marriage arrived at the altar to find that her husband is different from her fiance,” said commentator Michele Ainis in the Corriere della Sera daily.
The role of the Italian president is only loosely-defined but Napolitano has carved himself an unusually powerful role, by leveraging his popularity and authority with public statements and leaks of his views which get front page cover.
Full Article: Octogenarian president holds Italy’s fate | Reuters.