© Reuters. A general view of the Chamber of Deputies as it continues to vote to elect the country's new president, in Rome, Italy January 29, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/Pool
By Crispian Balmer, Giuseppe Fonte and Angelo Amante
ROME (Reuters) – Italy's ruling parties called on Sergio Mattarella on Saturday to continue his term as president after failing to find a compromise candidate in a week of often difficult votes in parliament.
Mattarella, 80, has always ruled out staying in power and made no immediate comment, but with the country's political stability under threat, it seemed highly unlikely he could withstand the pressure.
"Italians don't deserve days of confusion anymore," said Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party, asking Mattarella to "make a sacrifice" for the good of the country.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who found no support for his own ambitions for the job, called Mattarella on Saturday and also urged him to stay, a political source said.
This is the second time in a row that a president has been asked to renew his seven-year term. In 2013, political leaders turned headlong to then-head of state Giorgio Napolitano after they too failed to find a consensus candidate.
Napolitano reluctantly agreed, but withdrew two years later after the installation of a new government, paving the way for Mattarella.
If, as expected, Mattarella accepts a second term, he too would almost certainly step down once the political situation allows, commentators have speculated.
The failed efforts to replace him have left deep scars on the parties and their leaders, with the centre-right alliance particularly distraught after losing all semblance of unity in the past 24 hours.
While Salvini's League and Forza Italia have embraced the prospect of maintaining the status quo, their ally the Brotherhood of Italy, which has not joined them in the ruling coalition, has denounced the behind-the-scenes maneuvers.
“Once again, parliament has shown that it was not made for Italians,” said Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni, accusing her allies of “swapping” the presidency to ensure that the government remains in place until the end of the legislature in 2023.
The stakes were very high. The president is a powerful figure in Italy who appoints prime ministers and is often called upon to resolve political crises in the euro zone's third-largest economy, where governments survive for about a year on average.
Unlike the United States or France, where heads of state are elected by universal suffrage, in Italy 1,009 parliamentarians and regional representatives chose by secret ballot https://www.Reuters.com/world/europe/italian -presidential-elections-shrouded-parliamentary-secret-2022-01-13 that party leaders sometimes struggle to control.
Threatening to take charge of the situation themselves, lawmakers increasingly backed Mattarella in the daily polls, with his tally rising to 387 on Saturday from 125 on Wednesday.
A successful candidate needs 505 votes to win. A new vote is scheduled for later on Saturday, which should be decisive.
The repeated failure to find consensus has poisoned the political atmosphere, with potentially dangerous consequences for the stability of the coalition government.
Draghi himself has made it clear that he would like the post of president, but the main parties have refused to put his name forward, in part for fear that the sudden change in role could implode the fragile government.
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