At the top of the Palace of Montecitorio, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, there is a bell that rings only once every seven years. This Thursday afternoon, at 3:15 p.m., the clapper dusted off the artifact and the music began to announce the start of Italy’s highest institutional ceremony. At that moment, the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, left his office in the Quirinal Palace and walked the 900 meters that separated him from Parliament. As he enters, accompanied by the presidents of the two chambers, the bell stops ringing and does not start again until the same man swears on the Constitution as the new head of state, re-elected last Saturday after the chaotic attempt to find a successor.
The President of the Republic gave a 37-minute speech, deep and full of progressive references – immigrants, women, workers… – in which he even had time to remember the actress Monica Vitti, who died 24 hours earlier. A hymn to the “dignity” of a country, he underlined, which passes through respect and the sacred principles of democracy, social justice and the centrality of its Parliament.
If he had not accepted a second term, Mattarella believes that Italians’ expectations could have been “severely compromised” by “the prolongation of a state of uncertainty and deep political tensions, the consequences of which could have put in peril of the decisive resources and the prospects for the revival of the country.”I have always tried to respect the Constitution during the last seven years. To the guarantee of the rights, to the support and the answers to the ill-being of those who suffer the more. And those hopes would have been compromised if the decision dragged on. The following decisions would have made things difficult,” he added. And here the applause came again, which was repeated dozens of times, with almost the whole House on its feet during his speech, even when he shook up justice and called for major reform.
Mattarella (80) is the second President of the Republic to repeat himself (the previous one was his predecessor, Giorgio Napolitano). He is also the second most voted in history —after Sandro Pertini— and the man called upon to maintain the path of stability begun just a year ago with the election of Mario Draghi as President of the Council of Ministers . Mattarella, precisely, launched a speech of unity and optimism, but warned of the challenge facing the country that has benefited the most from European funds to emerge from the post-pandemic crisis. “It is an extraordinary phase. Italy is the biggest beneficiary of the Next Generation program, we must relaunch the economy. We must build in these years Italy after the emergency. A fairer and more Italy modern world. May it grow in unity and reduce inequalities”.
The civic appreciation of Mattarella was also shown in the reception in the streets of the parade that took it from the Quirinal to Montecitorio escorted by an army of carabinieri motorcycles. 21 salvos sounded from the cannon of Mount Gianicolo and the traditional fighter planes flew over Rome striking the tricolor flag in the sky. But it was also possible to appreciate the political respect enjoyed by the Head of State, imposed in an unprecedented parliamentary operation leaving the base, with the very long and warm applause he received on his arrival in the hemicycle. Italy, a country still politically and socially fragmented, has found in this Sicilian from the progressive wing of the old Christian Democracy one of the few pieces that hold it together.
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Mattarella’s second term is expected to last another seven years. But his age and the lack of interest he had in repeating the post suggest he could resign before he has finished it, when he believes the circumstances are ripe in Parliament to elect his successor in the order. This is exactly what Napolitano did in 2015. Mattarella, a constitutional expert, does not envisage it with a deadline. There was not the slightest hint of a possible mutilated mandate, which he faces at the cost of a certain sacrifice (he had already moved into his new house).
Mattarella remembered young people, immigrants and students looking for a future. Also of those who had to emigrate from Italy to find it. “Inequality is not the price to pay for growth, but the brake on this growth. Our obligation is to remove the obstacles. Dignity has an ethical and cultural significance. Dignity goes through the eradication, for example, of deaths at work, which hurt our society and the conscience of each one of us”. Dignity, he says, “is also about opposing racism and anti-Semitism, intolerant attacks. Dignity prevents violence against women. But also a country without mafia,” said Mattarella, whose brother was killed by Cosa Nostra.
The Head of State, a recognized bridge with the United States and the spirit of NATO, also referred to the conflict in Ukraine, for which he called for an end to the tests of force and called for a resolute commitment. dialogue as a strategy for peace. . In addition, he assured that Italy’s contribution cannot fail to contribute to peace. “We cannot accept that in Europe the wind of confrontation is rising again,” he said.
Mattarella then drove to the War Memorial, the Altar of the Fatherland in Piazza Venezia, driving down Via del Corso in the presidential car. There, paying homage to the unknown soldier who died during the First World War, he was accompanied by the President of the Council of Ministers, Mario Draghi. The two are clearly in agreement and the re-election of the head of state was the best option for the former president of the ECB. “I thank Draghi for his commitment,” Mattarella said after also referring to the recently deceased European Parliament President David Sassoli. Once the tribute was over, Mattarella boarded the historic presidential Lancia Flaminia and, after only fantasizing for a few days about the possibility of retirement, returned to work in his office.
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