Mattarella invokes the “dignity” of Italy to face his second term as head of state | International

Atop the Palace of Montecitorio, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, there is a bell that rings only once every seven years. On Thursday afternoon, at 3:15 p.m., the clapper dusted off the artifact and the music began announcing the beginning of the highest institutional ceremony in Italy. 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. Just as he entered, accompanied by the presidents of both chambers, the bell stopped ringing and only did so again when the same man swore on the Constitution as the new head of state, re-elected last Saturday after the chaotic attempt to find him a successor.

The President of the Republic made a 37-minute speech, profound and full of progressive references —immigrants, women, workers…— in which he even had time to remember the actress Monica Vitti, who had died 24 hours earlier. A hymn to the “dignity” of a country, he pointed out, which goes through respect and the sacred principles of democracy, social justice and the centrality of its Parliament.

Had he not accepted a second term, Mattarella believes that Italians’ expectations could have been “strongly compromised” by “the prolongation of a state of deep political uncertainty and tensions, the consequences of which could have jeopardized decisive resources and the prospects of relaunch the country. “I have always tried to attend to the Constitution in the last seven years. To the guarantee of rights, support and responses to the discomfort of those who suffer the most. And those hopes would have been compromised if the decision dragged on. They would have made the following decisions difficult,” he added. And here the applause returned, which was repeated dozens of times, with almost the entire camera standing, during his speech. Even when he shook the justice system and called for a major reform.

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Mattarella (80 years old) is the second president of the Republic to repeat in office (the previous one was his predecessor, Giorgio Napolitano). He is also the second most voted in history —after Sandro Pertini— and the man called 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. It is necessary to build in these years the Italy of after the emergency. A fairer and more modern Italy. May it grow in unity and reduce inequalities”.

Military aircraft form the Italian flag over the monument to the unknown soldier on Thursday in Rome's Piazza Venezia.
Military aircraft form the Italian flag over the monument to the unknown soldier on Thursday in Rome’s Piazza Venezia. ROWING CASILLI (REUTERS)

Citizen appreciation for Mattarella could also be seen in the reception in the streets of the parade that took him from the Quirinal to Montecitorio escorted by an army of carabinieri motorcycles. 21 salvos sounded from the Gianicolo mount cannon and the traditional fighter planes flew over Rome stamping 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 that emerged from the grassroots, with the very long and heartfelt applause that he received upon his arrival inside the chamber. Italy, a country always politically and socially fragmented, has found in this Sicilian that emerged 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 set to last another seven years. But his age and the scant interest he had in repeating the position suggest that he could resign before finishing it, when he considers that the circumstances are in place in Parliament to elect his successor in an orderly manner. That was exactly what Napolitano did in 2015. Mattarella, a constitutional expert, does not consider it with any deadline. There was not the slightest reference to a possible mutilated mandate, which he faces with a certain sacrifice (he had already made the move to his new house).

Mattarella remembered young people, immigrants and students looking for a future. Also of those who have had to emigrate from Italy to find it. “Inequalities are not the price to pay for growth, but the brake on that growth. Our obligation is to remove the obstacles. Dignity has an ethical and cultural meaning. Dignity includes eradicating, for example, deaths at work, which hurt our society and the conscience of each one of us”. Dignity, he said, “is also opposing racism and anti-Semitism, intolerant attacks. Dignity is preventing violence against women. But also a country free of the Mafia,” said Mattarella, whose brother was killed by Cosa Nostra.

The head of state, recognized bridge with the United States and the spirit of NATO, also referred to the conflict in Ukraine, for which he called for the cessation of the tests of force and called for a resolute commitment to dialogue as a strategy for peace . In addition, he assured that Italy’s contribution cannot be lacking to contribute to peace. “We cannot accept that the wind of confrontation is picking up again in Europe,” he said.

Mattarella then went to the monument for the fallen, the Altar of the Fatherland in Piazza Venezia, traveling in the presidential car along Via del Corso. There, paying tribute to the unknown soldier killed in the First World War, he was accompanied by the President of the Council of Ministers, Mario Draghi. Both are clearly in tune and the re-election of the head of state has been the best option for the former president of the ECB. “I thank Draghi for his commitment,” said Mattarella after also remembering the president of the European Parliament David Sassoli, who recently died. Once the tribute was over, Mattarella boarded the historic presidential Lancia Flaminia and, after only fantasizing for a few days about being able to retire, returned to work in his office.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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