The World Today for January 24, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

The Technocrat and the Tycoon

ITALY

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 85, was recently admitted to the hospital after dropping out of the running to become president of his country.

A billionaire media magnate, Berlusconi endured numerous sex and corruption scandals during his three stints as prime minister between 1994 and 2011. He currently is facing charges of bribing witnesses in an underage prostitution case that resulted in an acquittal. That biography proves his resiliency, but also raised eyebrows about his intent for the new office he aspired to hold.

While the office is largely symbolic, the Italian president has gained stature and power in recent years as political infighting and corruption have besmirched other politicians, wrote EUobserver. “The Italian presidency, the country’s head of state, is a seven-year position usually filled by a figure of unimpeachable integrity and sobriety whose influence flows from moral authority,” wrote the New York Times.

Italy’s president is not chosen through a direct election. Rather, the head of state is elected by 630 parliamentarians, 321 senators and 58 regional representatives, as Euronews explained.

The path now seems clear for incumbent Prime Minister Mario Draghi, 74, to become Italy’s president. The former head of the European Central Bank, Draghi took over as leader of a technocratic government early last year when his predecessor’s government collapsed during the coronavirus pandemic.

But many openly wonder whether he should leave the premiership to pursue the presidency, since he has done such a good job at bringing political and economic stability to the country, noted CNBC. The Economist, for example, worried that Draghi’s successor might not perform as successfully, threatening the stability of the Eurozone.

Italy is the third-largest member of the Eurozone after Germany and France. Keeping its relatively fragile economy growing is crucial to the future of the economic bloc, added Bloomberg. Draghi’s administration has assured financial markets that Italy can make progress in servicing its massive debt, which is equivalent to 160 percent of gross domestic product, while promoting economic growth of more than six percent annually.

The concerns involve more than just money. On the left, critics argued that, while Draghi enjoys the confidence of many, he was never elected. Instead, incumbent President Sergio Mattarella appointed him. If Draghi becomes president, Italy could be too easily forgetting about democracy while also growing too dependent on a single man, the Guardian argued.

Maybe Draghi shouldn’t be president. But he certainly seems like the best person for the job.

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