Silvio Berlusconi steps up presidential campaign
Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party has vowed to resign from Italy's governing majority If Mario Draghi is elected.
Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party has vowed to resign from Italy's governing majority if Mario Draghi, the current prime minister, is elected president later this month.
The scandal-plagued media tycoon, who has served as PM four times, arrived in Rome on Tuesday to drum up support for his own presidential bid.
The secret voting, which will be cast by over 1,000 lawmakers and regional representatives, will begin on January 24 and will likely go through multiple rounds before a successor to Sergio Mattarella, the current president who will step down on February 3, is chosen.
Although party leaders normally strive to agree on a candidate, there are no official candidates in Italy's presidential elections.
Berlusconi aims at the bullseye
Berlusconi, 85, is a front-runner for the seven-year mandate among right-wing parties. Draghi, on the other hand, is widely regarded as the frontrunner, having been credited with restoring stability in Italy as well as keeping the broad coalition in line.
According to sources in the Italian press, Berlusconi stated that "Forza Italia would leave the majority" if Draghi takes the helm. The possibility of Draghi's rise raises the possibility of a year-earlier general election. In a poll issued on Tuesday, more than half of Italians felt Draghi was the best candidate for the post, while only 39% said Berlusconi was the best candidate.
Berlusconi, who was temporarily barred from public office following a tax fraud conviction in 2013 and is still on trial for allegedly bribing witnesses in an underage prostitution case, is said to have been bombarding parliamentarians in the run-up to the election with his "Operation Squirrel campaign," according to the Italian press.
The president of Italy serves mostly in a ceremonial capacity, yet nonetheless has the power to resolve political crises, appoint prime ministers, and call early elections. Mattarella was compelled to step in multiple instances to settle crises, notably last February when he asked Draghi to create a unity government after Giuseppe Conte's cabinet fell.
Even though Berlusconi is known for his sharp "vote-buying talents," analysts predict he will struggle to gain enough support for his bid.