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BIPR | The Italian Presidential Elections A Conversation with Gianfranco Pasquino
The Italian Presidential Elections A Conversation with Gianfranco Pasquino

February 2, 2022 - 19:00


Event Recap

Many foreign newspapers reported the re-election of Italian President Sergio Mattarella to a second term as a sign of stability. However, Professor Gianfranco Pasquino argues that Mattarella's re-election represents a dangerous precedent and demonstrates the inability of Italian political parties to put forward viable candidates.

Pasquino claims that parliament re-elected Mattarella due to political parties' inability to find a suitable replacement. He argues that this was largely due to the center-left and the center-right being unable to name candidates. On the center-right's side, Pasquino partly attributes this to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi putting himself up as the candidate of the right. Berlusconi's decision hamstrung the center-right, and thus the election, because the center-right could not dismiss Berlusconi as a candidate. Also, the chair of the event, Professor Justin Frosini, and Professor Pasquino agree that the fact that the seated prime minister, Mario Draghi, put his name forward further complicated the nomination process. By putting his name forward, Draghi forced many politicians to have to determine if they wanted to risk causing a government crisis by electing a seated prime minister. Additionally, Pasquino contends that the parliamentarians had a least two feasible alternates who knew Italian institutions and knew how they work, but they never put them to a vote. Therefore, the Italian Parliament re-elected Mattarella because he was the easy choice.

In terms of what Mattarella's "election by default" means going forward, Pasquino believes that the election's tumultuous process weakened Mattarella's and Draghi's political standing. He asserts that this can be a setback for their agendas as the president and the prime minister depend on each other to achieve their policy objectives. Pasquino also argues that the election highlighted the fundamental leadership problem Italy faces. Particularly for the presidential elections, the generation of politicians who are in their 60s right now and should be taking over the reins of the presidency seems to be conspicuously absent.

Professor Frosini pointed out that this is the second time in the past decade that parliament has re-elected a president. Therefore, Mattarella's re-election seems to set the precedent re-electing the president the norm, even if the re-election was to strike a compromise. As Pasquino emphasizes, the constitution does not include any provisions about the president being re-elected. Pasquino claims that this implies that the writers of the constitution would have preferred the parliament to not re-elect the president. Therefore, although the foreign press sees the election of Mattarella as a sign of stability, Professor Pasquino believes that Mattarella's re-election covers up underlying issues of Italy's weak political leadership and parties and carries the unintended precedent of re-electing the president which has not been properly evaluated from a constitutional point of view.



Full Audio:

The Italian Presidential Elections A Conversation with Gianfranco Pasquino


Supported by the Associazione di cultura e di studio italo-americana Luciano Finelli Friends of the Johns Hopkins University
hosted by Professor Justin O. Frosini

Gianfranco Pasquino
Senior Adjunct Professor, SAIS Europe; Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Bologna

The event will be held in hybrid mode. SAIS Europe students, faculty, and staff are allowed to attend in person in the Penthouse. External guests are welcome to participate by registering for the online webinar using the link below.

Gianfranco Pasquino is Senior Adjunct Professor at SAIS Europe and Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Bologna. Pasquino was Professor of Political Science at the University of Bologna from 1969-2012. He was a member of the Italian Senate from 1983-1992 and from 1994-1996. He served as a parliamentary observer for the plebiscite (1988) and presidential elections (1989) in Chile. He has been awarded five honorary degrees in Political Science, and is a Life Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge. Pasquino has also been Fellow of Christchurch and St Antony's at Oxford. For several years he was a member of the Editorial Board of the Enciclopedia Italiana and President of the Società Italiana di Scienza Politica (2010-2013). Since 2005 he is a member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. He received the Conference Group on Italian Politics and Society (CONGRIPS) Life Achievement Award (2016). He is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to academic journals, policy forums and news outlets. Pasquino is often invited to participate in TV talk shows. Pasquino is very proud of his MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins SAIS (1967).
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