Italy’s veteran President Giorgio Napolitano resigned Wednesday after almost a decade at the helm of the eurozone’s third largest economy, setting the stage for the election of a new head of state.
“President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano signed his resignation letter this morning,” the presidential office said in a statement.
The significance of Mr Napolitano’s departure can be measured by the fact that he has appointed the past three premiers and that the 89-year-old head of state was widely credited with behind-the-scenes manoeuvres that finally removed Silvio Berlusconi from power, at the height of the sovereign debt crisis in 2011. He then slotted the economist Mario Monti into the Prime Minister’s office, and when Monti’s time was up in 2013 and Italy failed to elected a majority government, he picked Enrico Letta and then Matteo Renzi as successive Prime Ministers.
After Mr Napolitano’s resignation, two weeks’ of meetings in smoked-filled rooms are expected to take place before the Italian parliament is obliged to begin elections to name his successor, in a process not unlike the papal conclave that elects a new pope. Mr Renzi said that he hopes the new President will be named by the fourth voting session on 1 February. Pietro Grasso, an anti-mafia prosecutor and the president of the Italian senate, will be acting President until a successor is appointed.