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The fourth presidential election in Italy is expected to fail

Ballot papers are counted after the third day of voting to elect the country's new president, in Rome, Italy, January 26, 2022. Alberto Pizzoli/Pool via REUTERS

On Thursday, Italy’s political parties will hold a fourth round of voting to elect a new president, but the vote is expected to be inconclusive because the parties are still deadlocked over a mutually acceptable candidate.

The news: The battle for the prestigious seven-year position is wide open, with neither the center-right nor the center-left bloc having enough votes to get their nominee through, necessitating a compromise accord.

  • Prime Minister Mario Draghi is still a contender for the post, but he isn’t the shoo-in many expected, with MPs plainly hesitant to back him, partially because they are concerned that any change in the government will lead to early elections.
  • Early on Thursday, centre-right leaders convened to devise a strategy, but with no cross-party meetings scheduled, an immediate agreement appeared doubtful.
  • Three days of secret elections in parliament have so far failed to elect a new president to succeed Sergio Mattarella, who is stepping down. On Thursday, the fourth round of voting was set to begin at 1000 GMT.
  • Until now, a winning candidate required a two-thirds majority, but starting Thursday, the threshold will be an absolute majority.

What they’re saying: The chairman of the largest centre-left party, the Democratic Party (PD), Enrico Letta, has advised the centre-right not to try to strike backdoor deals with a slew of unaffiliated lawmakers in order to elect someone from their camp as president.

  • Draghi’s year-old national unity government includes parties from both blocs, but Letta wrote on Twitter that any unilateral move on such a crucial decision would bring the coalition to its knees. He explained, “It would be the easiest way to blow everything up.”

What’s going on: The centre-right has put forth three candidates from its ranks thus far – a former Senate speaker, a former mayor of Milan, and a retired magistrate – but the centre-left quickly discarded the trio and demanded more negotiations.

  • In addition to Draghi, former lower house speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini, former premier Giuliano Amato, and Senate speaker Elisabetta Casellati have all been mentioned in the media.
  • Accepting a second mandate would be the simplest solution for Mattarella. He has so far ruled this out, but he won 125 votes on Wednesday’s poll, indicating that many lawmakers believe he will change his mind.
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