By Angelo Amante
ROME, Jan 24 (Reuters) – The Italian parliament will start voting on Monday to choose a new head of state, with Prime Minister Mario Draghi among the most prominent candidates in a very open race that will be closely watched by financial markets.
Italian politicians are concerned that the result could trigger new uncertainties in the euro zone’s third-largest economy, which is facing a resurgence in COVID-19 infections and deaths.
In a process that could take several days, more than 1,000 parliamentarians and regional representatives will gather at 1400 GMT for the first round of secret ballots to replace outgoing Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
The winner needs a two-thirds majority in any of the first three rounds, with an absolute majority thereafter being sufficient.
Draghi, who leads a government of national unity, has made it clear that he would like the position, which has a term of 7 years. But some parties are reluctant to back him for fear that his departure from the executive could trigger political turmoil and early elections.
“In this difficult moment, it would be dangerous to remove Draghi from the post of prime minister,” the right-wing League leader Matteo Salvini said on Sunday, echoing similar remarks by his coalition partner Berlusconi.
Since neither the center-right nor the center-left have enough votes to impose a candidate from their own camp, a consensus is likely to be needed to avoid a deadlock.
If Draghi were to become head of state, an agreement on another prime minister would be needed immediately to ensure instability does not jeopardize Italy’s push to receive some 200 billion euros ($226.8 billion) of aid funds. of the EU for the pandemic.
Among those considered possible contenders are former lower house speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini, former prime minister Giuliano Amato and Senate president Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati.
Mattarella has ruled out accepting another term, but some politicians have suggested begging him to continue, leaving Draghi as prime minister until Italy’s next election, due in early 2023.
(1 dollar = 0.8818 euros)
(Edited by Gavin Jones and Alexander Smith, translated by José Muñoz in the Gdańsk newsroom)