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Here’s what happens after President Giorgio Napolitano resigns

by Francesco Clementi

Once the outgoing President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, officially files his resignation, Italy will go through five steps to elect a new President.

The most immediate steps will see the President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso taking on the interim role of President of the Republic. Then, within fifteen days from the official resignation date, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini will officially call for designated voters to form an electoral committee.

This is made up by all members of Parliament plus three delegates from each of Italy’s twenty Regions –something arranged in order to give voice to regional minorities –except from Valle d’Aosta, with only one delegate.

Once elections take place, the whole process will culminate with the nomination of a new President.

Early resignation –issued before the official deadline of the Presidential mandate –has been the most popular choice amongst the eleven Presidents that have preceded outgoing Napolitano in the history of the Italian Republic.

The six Presidents that have decided to take this exit route have all done so for different reasons. There is no standard procedure to follow. All that the Constitution states is that an elected President may opt to resign for “reasons that permanently prevent him/her to serve his/her mandate.”

The Constitution poses no criteria for the nature of reasons to resign from the office of president. It is therefore a very personal choice, one that presidents can take without the need of approval by any other government official.

The outgoing president simply needs to notify his General Secretary.

His decision then needs to be formally registered as part of the “Gazzetta Ufficiale” –a collection of all norms and regulations currently in effect in Italy.

Once the President’s resignation has been formally registered, the President of the Senate automatically takes on the role of interim President –as according to article 86 of the Italian constitution.

The interim period allows for elections to be arranged. As mentioned earlier, it is a duty of the President of the Chamber of Deputies to call for designated voters to form an electoral committee within fifteen days from the official resignation of the President. However,this time limit does not apply in case of Parliamentary elections or if the deadline for the Parliamentary mandate is less than three months away.

Once the first meeting for the electoral committee has been scheduled –according to guidelines regulating the Chamber of Deputies –elections can take place.

The President is elected via a secret ballot. If a candidate gets two thirds of votes throughout the first three voting sessions, he or she gets elected. If this fails to take place, voters are called to express their preference in a further session. From then on, whoever gets the majority vote will be the winning candidate.

The pace of the interim process will depend on political will, but what’s for sure is that it will eventually result into the official election of a new President of the Republic.