Napolitano quits as Italian president

Italy's first re-elected head of State resigns after nine years

14 January, 18:27

    (ANSAmed) - Rome, January 14 - Italy's former president, Senator Giorgio Napolitano, has left the Quirinale presidential palace after his resignation letter was delivered to the premier and the Speakers of both houses of parliament Wednesday as protocol demands, the president's office said in a statement. Napolitano, 89, became the first former Communist to be elected head of State in 2006. He made history again in 2013, when he reluctantly agreed to become the first Italian president to be re-elected to avert a political crisis after parliament failed to agree on a successor. Napolitano always said he would not serve out his second seven-year term but vowed to guarantee stability in the country's top institutional positions throughout Italy's duty European Union presidency, which ended Tuesday. Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso has taken over as interim president until January 29, when a special joint session of both houses of parliament and representatives from Italy's regional governments will start voting on his successor. Premier Matteo Renzi used his Twitter account, @matteorenzi, to thank Napolitano for his nine years of service.

    "#GraziePresidente" tweeted Renzi. Italy should feel "gratitude and emotion" for Napolitano, Renzi said. As well as "handling delicate moments of institutional safeguards" during his nine years in office, the premier said, "he demonstrated an extraordinary political intelligence".

    Renzi went on to say lawmakers cannot fail again when the time comes to replace him, as happened in 2013 in an especially embarrassing debacle for the premier's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) as two candidates proposed by then chief Pier Luigi Bersani were scuppered due to rebellions within the party's ranks. Also on Wednesday, Pope Francis saluted Napolitano's "exemplary service" in a telegram expressing "sincere esteem and deep appreciation for your generous, exemplary service to the Italian nation, performed with authoritativeness, loyalty and tireless dedication to the common good". Francis added that Napolitano's "enlightened, wise" work had helped reinforce "solidarity" and "unity" in Italy in situations "of not few difficulties".

    However, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) in a statement called Napolitano "one of the worst presidents" in the history of the Italian Republic. The M5S frequently accused Napolitano of not properly conducting his role as an independent arbiter of Italian politics and tried but failed to have him impeached. Susanna Camusso, who leads the largest and most leftwing of Italy's "big three" trade union federations, CGIL, "thanked and saluted" Napolitano.

    "His presence has often been a point of reference, of legitimacy and of recognition for our country in relation to Europe and the world," she said.

    Germany also chimed in on the day Napolitano stepped down.

    "He was a president of great significance for Italy, to whom the country owes a lot," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.

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