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MNI (Rome)

Mario Draghi remains favourite to become Italy’s next president, but the chances of an alternative candidate including incumbent Sergio Mattarella will be much higher if the former European Central Bank chief does not win the race this week, sources in the country’s main political parties told MNI.

While Draghi backers are confident he will win by Friday, other party officials pointed to a growing push for Pier Ferdinando Casini, a past president of the House of Deputies with roots in the former Christian Democratic party.

Draghi had initially been expected to win easy approval for a seven-year presidential term, but the failure by parties in his coalition to agree on a replacement for him as prime minister persuaded the leaders of the right-wing League and the Populist Five-Star Movement that it would be better if he stayed in his current job.

Earlier this week, as the initial rounds of the presidential election by a secret ballot of parliamentarians and regional officials proved inconclusive, the parties gave themselves three days to agree on an alternative president, with the informal deadline expiring on Thursday. (See MNI: Italy's Coalition Seeks Late Move To Keep Draghi As PM)

So far talks have been complicated by a deep rift within the populist Five-Star Movement.

“If there isn’t agreement on Draghi within two days, anything could happen,” a senior source from the centre-left Democratic party, which is leaning towards voting for Draghi as president, told MNI.

COULD DRAGHI WALK AWAY?

Meanwhile, though prominent party leaders would prefer Draghi to stay as PM, it is not clear that he would agree to do so.

In a meeting and phone calls with leaders this week, Draghi gave them the impression that he might not continue as prime minister if he fails to win the presidency and considers that he would be unable to successfully continue with economic and legal reforms, and to meet commitments required in return for EU funds, officials told MNI. A spokesperson for Draghi’s office declined to comment on the matter.

A significant source of uncertainty in talks comes from within Five Star, whose leader Giuseppe Conte, a former prime minister, has struggled to impose party discipline. While Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio, an internal rival of Conte, is pushing for Draghi to be president, other party members are firmly opposed.

Several Five-Star sources told MNI the party could unite behind a second term for the current president, though Mattarella himself has indicated that he does not want to stay in the job.

League leader Matteo Salvini has been taking advantage of the talks to push for a more prominent role for himself in the next government, officials from several parties said. With elections due in 2023, Italy’s technocratic administration under Draghi is set to give way to a more political style of government as election campaigns draw nearer, the Democratic Party source noted.

If a new president has not been selected by Feb. 4, the Senate speaker will take the role temporarily until a new head of state is selected.

MNI Rome Bureau | +34-672-478-840 | santi.pinol.ext@marketnews.com
MNI Rome Bureau | +34-672-478-840 | santi.pinol.ext@marketnews.com

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