Presidential elections in Italy begin

An Monday afternoon the election of a new Italian president began – in anticipation of a lengthy voting process and initially without a favourite. Eligible to vote are 1009 “grandi elettori” from both chambers of Parliament and from the representative bodies of the 20 regions.

Matthias Rüb

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

Neither the coalition of center-left parties nor the right-wing camp had been able to agree on a candidate before the elections began. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi withdrew his candidacy on Saturday. The 85-year-old chairman and founder of the Christian Democratic party Forza Italia had already been admitted to a Milan hospital on Thursday for routine examinations, as was announced on Sunday.

In the first three ballots, a two-thirds majority of 673 votes is required; from the fourth ballot onwards, an absolute majority of 505 votes is sufficient. Due to the pandemic measures and the complicated process of the secret ballot, only one ballot is possible per day. A decision is not expected before the fourth ballot on Thursday. The first ballot, which began at 3 p.m., was expected to last up to six hours.

Coalition partners hand in blank ballot papers

As was announced during the vote for the first ballot, the voters of the Social Democrats and the left-wing populist Five Star Movement, the right-wing national Lega and Forza Italia and other small parties in the governing coalition under Prime Minister Mario Draghi cast blank ballots. The abstentions of all major coalition parties should be seen as a sign of good will and willingness to later support a common candidate from the fourth ballot, it said. The opposition party “Brothers of Italy” also handed in blank white ballot papers. The left-wing parties Azione and Mehr Europa voted for the incumbent justice minister, Marta Cartabia.

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