Giorgio Napolitano

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Giorgio Napolitano, OMRI (Italian: [ˈdʒordʒo napoliˈtaːno]; born 29 June 1925) is an Italian politician who was the 11th President of Italy from 2006 to 2015, the only Italian President to be reelected to the Presidency. Due to his dominant position in Italian politics, critics often refer to him as Re Giorgio ("King George"). He is the longest serving President in the history of the modern Italian Republic, which has been in existence since 1946.

Although the presidency is a nonpartisan office as guarantor of Italy's Constitution, Napolitano was a longtime member of the Italian Communist Party (and of its post-Communist successors, from the Democratic Party of the Left onwards). He was a leading member of a modernizing faction on the right of the party. First elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1953, he took an assiduous interest in parliamentary life, and was President of the Chamber of Deputies from 1992 to 1994. He was Minister of the Interior from 1996 to 1998 under Romano Prodi.

Napolitano was appointed a Senator for life in 2005 by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. In May 2006, he was elected by parliament as President of Italy. During his first term of office, he oversaw governments both of the centre-left, led by Prodi, and the centre-right, led by Silvio Berlusconi. In November 2011, Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister amid financial and economic problems. Napolitano, in keeping with his constitutional role, then asked former EU commissioner Mario Monti to form a cabinet which was referred to as a "government of the president" by critics.

When his seven-year presidential term expired in April 2013, Napolitano (then aged 87) reluctantly agreed to stand again, to safeguard the continuity of the country's institutions during the parliamentary deadlock that followed the 2013 general election. On being reelected as President with broad cross-party support in parliament, he overcame the impasse by inviting Enrico Letta to propose a government in the form of a grand coalition. When Letta handed in his resignation on 14 February 2014, Napolitano mandated Matteo Renzi (Letta's factional challenger) to form a new government. After a record eight and a half years as president, Napolitano resigned at age 89 in January 2015.

Early life

Giorgio Napolitano was born in Naples, in 1925. His father, Giovanni, was a liberal lawyer and poet; his mother was Carolina Bobbio, descendant of a noble Piedmontese family.

From 1938 to 1941 he studied at the Classical Lyceum Umberto I of Naples, but in 1941 his family moved to Padova and he was graduated to the lyceum Titus Livius. In 1942, he matriculated at the University of Naples Federico II, studying law. During this period, Napolitano adhered to the local University Fascist Youth ("Gioventù Universitaria Fascista"), where he met his core group of friends, who shared his opposition to Italian fascism. As he would later state, the group "was in fact a true breeding ground of anti-fascist intellectual energies, disguised and to a certain extent tolerated".

A enthusiast of the theatre since secondary school, during his university years he contributed a theatrical review to the IX Maggio weekly magazine and had small parts in plays organized by the Gioventù Universitaria Fascista itself. He played in a comedy by Salvatore Di Giacomo at Teatro Mercadante in Naples. Napolitano dreamt of being an actor and spent his early years performing in several productions at the Teatro Mercadante.

Napolitano has often been cited as the author of a collection of sonnets in Neapolitan dialect published under a pseudonym, Tommaso Pignatelli, and entitled Pe cupià ’o chiarfo ("To mimic the downpour"). He denied this in 1997 and, again, on the occasion of his presidential election, when his staff described the attribution of authorship to Napolitano as a "journalistic myth". He published his first acknowledged book, entitled Movimento Operaio e Industria di Stato (which can be translated as "Workers' Movement and State Industry"), in 1962.

World War II

During the existence of the Italian Social Republic (1943–1945), a puppet state of Nazi Germany in the final period of World War II, Napolitano and his circle of friends took part in several actions of the Italian resistance movement against German and Italian fascist forces.

Eluana Englaro incident

On 6 February 2009, President Napolitano refused to sign an emergency decree made by the Berlusconi government in order to suspend a final court sentence allowing suspension of nutrition to 38-year-old coma patient Eluana Englaro; the decree could not be enacted by Berlusconi. This caused a major political debate within Italy regarding the relationship between the President and the government in office.

2011 political crisis

On 10 October 2011, the Chamber of Deputies rejected the law on the budget of the State proposed by the government. As a result of this event Berlusconi moved for a confidence vote in the Chamber on 14 October, he won the vote with just 316 votes to 310, minimum required to retain a majority. An increasing number of Deputies continued to cross the floor and join the opposition and on 8 November the Chamber approved the law on the budget of the State previously rejected but with only 308 votes, while opposition parties didn't participate in the vote to highlight that Berlusconi lost his majority. After the vote, Berlusconi announced his resignation after Parliament passed economic reforms.

On 12 November 2011, after a final meeting with his cabinet, Berlusconi met Napolitano at the Palazzo del Quirinale to tend his resignation. As he arrived at the presidential residence, a hostile crowd gathered with banners shouting insults at Berlusconi and throwing coins at the car. After his resignation, the booing and jeering continued as he left in his convoy, with the public shouting words such as "buffoon", "dictator" and "mafioso".[51] Following Berlusconi's resignation, President Napolitano then decided to appoint former EU commissioner Mario Monti as a senator for life, and then as prime minister designate. Monti was subsequently confirmed by an overwhelming majority of both houses of the Italian parliament, in what was widely referred to as a "government of the president".

Napolitano's management of the events caused unprecedented worldwide media exposure regarding his role as President of the Italian Republic, a role normally regarded as largely ceremonial.

Renzi Cabinet

In the December election, the young Mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi was elected with 68% of the popular vote, compared to 18% for Gianni Cuperlo and 14% for Giuseppe Civati. He became the new Secretary of the Democratic Party and the centre-left's prospective candidate for Prime Minister. His victory was welcomed by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who had been the Vice-Secretary of the party under Bersani's leadership.

In an earlier speech, Renzi had paid tribute to Letta, saying that he was not intended to put him "on trial". But, without directly proposing himself as the next Prime Minister, he said the Eurozone's third-largest economy urgently needed "a new phase" and "radical programme" to push through badly-needed reforms. The motion he put forward made clear "the necessity and urgency of opening a new phase with a new executive". Speaking privately to party leaders, Renzi said that Italy was "at a crossroads" and faced either holding fresh elections or a new government without a return to the polls. On 14 February, President Napolitano accepted Letta's resignation from the office of Prime Minister.

Following Letta's resignation, Renzi formally received the task of forming a new government from President Napolitano on 17 February. Renzi held several days of talks with party leaders, all of which he broadcast live on the internet, before unveiling his Cabinet on 21 February, which contained members of his Democratic Party, the New Centre-Right, the Union of the Centre and the Civic Choice. His Cabinet became Italy's youngest government to date, with an average age of 47. It was also the first in which the number of female ministers was equal to the number of male ministers, excluding the Prime Minister.

The following day Renzi was formally sworn in as Prime Minister, becoming the fourth Prime Minister in four years and the youngest Prime Minister in the history of Italy.

On 30 January 2014 the Five Star Movement deposited an impeachment accusing Napolitano of harming the Italian Constitution, to allow unconstitutional laws and in relation of the events State-Mafia negotiation. The motion was later dismissed.

On 9 November 2014 the Italian press reported that Napolitano would step down at the end of the year. The press office of the Quirinale "neither confirmed nor denied" the reports. Napolitano officially resigned on 14 January 2015, after the end of the six month Italian Presidency of the European Union.


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