ROME – Italian President Sergio Mattarella received an astounding 55 rounds of applause from an otherwise divided parliament Thursday after he was sworn in to a second term in office.
Mattarella, 80, agreed to remain in office after Italy’s fractious parties failed to agree on a successor, citing a sense of responsibility given the ongoing pandemic and efforts to relaunch the economy.
Mattarella’s decision to remain in office as head of state is expected to allow the current government, headed by Premier Mario Draghi, to finish its mandate, which expires next year. The role is largely ceremonial, but can also require institutional knowledge and deft negotiations to navigate political crises.
“The parliament and regional representatives made their decision," Mattarella said. “For me, it is a new, unexpected call to responsibility that I cannot and don’t expect to escape.”
He said that that the expectations of ordinary citizens, especially those whose suffering requires an institutional response, “would have been jeopardized by a prolonged state of political uncertainty and tensions," which could have put at risk Italy's economic recovery.
Mattarella is the second president to accept a second term, following Giorgio Napolitano, who agreed to stay on after a similar political stalemate, leaving office in 2015 when he was nearly 90. Napolitano, however, lashed out at lawmakers during his remarks following his swearing-in, in contrast to Mattarella’s speech that put an emphasis on the need for unity.
After Thursday's swearing-in, the Frecce Tricolore team of acrobatic pilots streamed red, green and white smoke over Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as Mattarella and Draghi were driven by in a convertible sedan en route to the presidential palace, followed by Italy’s presidential guard on horseback.