Mattarella, the man who supported Italy | International

Sergio Mattarella, President of the Republic of Italy, at the inauguration of the judicial course on January 21.
Sergio Mattarella, President of the Republic of Italy, at the inauguration of the judicial course on January 21.ITALIAN PRESIDENCY (Via REUTERS)

On the morning of January 6, 1980, all of Palermo celebrated Three Kings’ Day. Piersanti Mattarella, governor of Sicily and strong man of the Christian Democracy, drove his white Fiat 132 to the church where he was going to attend mass with his wife, sitting in the seat next to him, and his daughter and mother-in-law, accommodated in the rear seats of the vehicle. When they reached the central Via della Libertà, a Cosa Nostra hit man approached his window and shot him six times at point-blank range. In the photograph taken by the legendary Letizia Battaglia, a guy with white hair and glasses is seen dramatically carrying the body out of the passenger door in a desperate attempt to save his life. It was his brother, Sergio Mattarella (Palermo, 80 years old), a man of integrity who lived forever marked by a tragedy that underlined the weaknesses of Italy and that always pushed him to fulfill an unusual desire to serve the country.

The current head of the Italian State, the second president to repeat in office in the history of the Republic – the previous one was his predecessor, Giorgio Napolitano – has proven to be a committed, moderate and neutral man capable of maintaining the fragile balance of a country with suicidal tendencies in the worst moments of these seven years. “If you need me, I’m here. Although I had other plans,” he said with his usual modesty when asked to repeat on Saturday. Mattarella is one of the last representatives of the progressive wing of the old Christian Democracy. He was elected president by the Italian Parliament in February 2015. He was the ace up the sleeve of the then prime minister, Matteo Renzi, to prevent the arrival of Giuliano Amato, who had already agreed behind his back Massimo D’Alema and Silvio Berlusconi within of the so-called Pact of the Nazarene – along the street where the headquarters of the Democratic Party (PD) is located in Rome -. Il Cavaliere was fed up with Napolitano, a man who never danced the water for him, and he wanted to ensure a period of peace: for himself and for his companies. But the name of Renzi prevailed (as always happens when the Florentine politician proposes something). But time has shown that he was wrong if he thought that Mattarella could feel indebted.

The relationship, explain those who deal with both, was broken when Renzi resigned in December 2016 thinking that elections would be called and he would regain the position of prime minister more strongly. Mattarella, little friend of the palace’s personalist movements, prevented the chambers from being dissolved and opted for the figure of Paolo Gentiloni as a replacement. It was the first intervention in the legislature to avoid a disaster. The second, perhaps, came when he prevented Paolo Savona from being Minister of the Economy (the anti-European bet of the then Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, in 2018). The move was so violent that the President of the Republic had to explain it on television.

Mattarella’s tenure has been eventful and pivotal at many points. It has lived through five different executives – Matteo Renzi’s, Paolo Gentiloni’s, Giuseppe Conte’s and Mario Draghi’s – and was about to form a technical government to avoid the national-populist drift that Italy dangerously embarked on hand in hand by Matteo Salvini. He suffered a grotesque campaign to carry out a supposed the impeachment process by the 5 Star Movement. And he watched as Salvini, disagreeing with his decisions, tweeted that he was not its president. His relationship, however, has been good with almost everyone. In the Quirinal they remember that the legislature began with an Executive in which one party wanted to leave the euro —the 5 Star Movement (M5S)— and the other from the European Union —the League—. One with pro-Russian impulses and the other inclined to please China. Mattarella managed to contain all these drifts and keep Italy’s international image afloat.

Parliament has now asked him for one last service, despite the fact that Mattarella said in every possible way that he wanted to go home and that a second term seemed to him to force the Constitution excessively. Everyone knew, however, that a man of his commitment, who saw his family being broken by his desire to serve the country, would be unable to refuse.

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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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