Italy will elect a president in January 2022 to serve a seven-year term. The election is conducted by a college of electors, the elected representatives of the two houses of Parliament. For the moment, the results of the election are difficult to predict. Mario Draghi had long been considered the favourite, but that was before he returned to government as Prime Minister in February 2021. If a new candidate fails to become a front runner, President Mattarella could remain for one more term, as happened with President Napolitano in 2013.
Italy is a political system in which the President of the Republic’s prerogatives are chiefly honorary, although on occasion they include arbitrating in the event of institutional crises. The position is therefore very attractive to politician and businessman Silvio Berlusconi, who would like to add this prestigious position to his list of honours. He already has the title of longest serving Prime Minister since the end of the Second World War. Nicknamed Il Cavaliere (the Knight), Berlusconi likes to recall that he once made a promise to his mother that one day he would become President of the Italian Republic.
However, his candidacy is not guaranteed. At 85 years old, his run comes with some liabilities. Furthermore, he is a controversial figure, whereas the profiles chosen for the presidency of the Republic are usually rather smooth and consensual personalities, likely to gather a large number of people and to embody a natural authority. Silvio Berlusconi is also hindered by numerous legal proceedings: in 2013, he was sentenced to several years’ disqualification from holding public office for tax fraud. Many accusations still target him and have not been cleared up, including cases of corruption and prostitution of minors.
But Berlusconi appears undaunted by his age, temperament, or past. He has confidence in his star, and knows that he still enjoys a certain base of popularity among Italians, as proven by some recent polls which put him in second place in the presidential election race.
Giorgia Meloni, the president of the party Fratelli d’Italia, also a former Berlusconi minister, believes that Silvio Berlusconi is not a bad candidate because he has proved in many occasions his commitment to defending the interests of his country: in her words, Berlusconi has a “patriotic” profile. Berlusconi has already gone hunting for votes. Currently, the totality of the votes of the right-wing parliamentarians would not be enough for him to obtain a majority: he must therefore also count on the pool of 111 parliamentarians without labels, who are also rather open to his candidacy. Il Cavaliere has not said his last word, and could even surprise an audience open to hearing a moderate and reassuring right-wing voice.