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Italy's President Napolitano Resigns: What Happens Next

Moments ago, Italy's 89-year-old president Giorgio Napolitano resigned, as had been expected.

Here, courtesy of Bloomberg, is what happens next.

Giorgio Napolitano, Italy’s longest-serving president, resigned before the end of a second 7-year presidential term. Napolitano accepted 2nd term in 2013 after parliament failed to elect his successor for days, had signaled from start he wouldn’t have served another full mandate.

When will Napolitano’s successor be elected?

  • Parliament, together with 58 regional delegates that have yet to be appointed, has to meet within 15 days to  elect successor.
  • Procedure can take several days as max 2 rounds of voting are held each day
  • While some presidents, such as Francesco Cossiga in 1985, were chosen in one day, the election of Giovanni Leone in 1971 took 23 rounds of voting

How does vote work?

  • Presidential election is held in Parliament in roll-call vote of more than 1,000 lawmakers and regional officials

Ballot is secret

  • To win in first 3 rounds the candidate must secure 2/3 of as many as 1,009 potential votes; from 4th round simple majority of 505 electors is required
  • Senate speaker Pietro Grasso acts as caretaker president until a new head of state is elected
  • Napolitano becomes now senator for life

Why Napolitano’s resignation poses challenge for Premier Matteo Renzi?

  • Renzi needs head of state willing to support his reform agenda and dissolve parliament at his request if he finds himself in position to push for early elections

How are electors split?

  • Without taking into account 58 regional officials from various parties who have yet to be appointed by local councils, Renzi’s Democratic party has 415 electors, while former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party has 130 and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement has 137
  • Majority that supports govt, which includes Renzi’s PD, New Center-Right and Civic Choice, would have enough votes to elect a president from 4th round, assuming there are no defections
  • PD failed to elect its candidate for president Romano Prodi in April 2013 after reportedly more than 100 defections among the center-left coalition
  • Renzi would also have enough votes to elect president from  4th round if he strikes deal with either Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party or Grillo’s movement, which are both at the opposition

What is the role of Italy’s president?

  • The president, whose term lasts 7 years, is the head of the armed force and can reject laws that he considers unconstitutional
  • While he’s often seen as a ceremonial figure, he also has the power to dissolve parliament, designate prime minister candidates and call early elections

What will be Napolitano’s remembered for?

  • During his 9-yr tenure, Napolitano has been regarded as the guarantor of stability amid unstable governments and Italy’s longest recession since World War II
  • During financial crisis in 2011, Napolitano fended off risk of bailout by appointing former European Commissioner Mario Monti to lead govt of non politicians to reassure markets after Berlusconi’s majority crumbled amid record high bond yields