Welcome to Squid Game, the Italian way – POLITICO

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ROME — Italy’s president’s selection has been compared to the TV show ‘Squid Game’ — but with no actual killing and plenty of espresso.

More than 1,000 lawmakers and their staff descended on Rome to elect the new president. Bars and restaurants are packed but, if you need a reminder that we’re still living in the time of COVID, any parliamentarian who tests positive for coronavirus will have to vote in a drive-thru ballot box in a parking lot.

They say that the role of the Italian president contracts and expands like an accordion, depending on the extent of the crisis in which the country finds itself (and it often is in crisis), but although it is in Much of a ceremonial position, the president has far-reaching powers.

He or she is elected by national politicians and regional representatives rather than ordinary people, so there is no playing field for the nation and the hard work is done in the hallways – and quiet corners – power, through what is called palace Games. Shenanigans and haggling, which Machiavelli would blush about, continue between mouthfuls of pasta and sips of red wine.

To get the job, you need a two-thirds majority (673 out of 1,009 voters) in the first three ballots, after which a simple majority is enough. Voting started on Monday and the aim is to wrap things up before February 3, when incumbent Sergio Mattarella’s term expires.

The rules of the game are mysterious. For its proponents, the need to both bluff and see several moves ahead requires the skills of poker and 3D chess. To outsiders – and cynics – it sounds more like a blind buff.

A political observer called it a “ritual, a sung mass that must be celebrated”. Italian media dubbed it “Quirinale Game” – referring to both the site of the presidential palace and the Netflix series “Squid Game”, the South Korean survival drama.

Oh, and it’s bad form to say you really want the job.

Stay quiet

The names of possible candidates are constantly put forward, like lambs at the slaughterhouse.

On Tuesday alone, three supposedly potential candidates were presented by the right-wing alliance, knowing full well that they would be rejected.

As Enrico Letta, leader of the left-leaning Democratic Party, told television cameras that he would carefully consider all three candidates, the leader of Italy’s far-right Brotherhood, Giorgia Meloni, walked past and applauded his performance.

So who will get the job?

The most likely candidates will probably have kept a very low profile. However, no one could accuse Silvio Berlusconi of keeping a low profile, which partly explains why his bid for the job fell through.

Berlusconi’s unorthodox canvassing operation, dubbed Operation Squirrel, fell flat. His self-aggrandizing newspaper advertisements and attempts to pressure lawmakers trashed the reserve convention among presidential candidates and were even ridiculed.

“He introduced himself as Mr. Bunga Bunga,” said Bianca Laura Granato, an independent senator who received a phone call from Berlusconi, in a radio interview.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi is very different from Berlusconi and has been heavily favored for the job in recent months, but lost all support as he admitted at an end-of-year press conference that he would be willing to take the job. By contrast, Mattarella, who has signaled at least a dozen times that he would not accept a second term, looks increasingly likely.

The first three days of voting are usually washed out, as no one comes close to the number of votes needed to win. In 10 of the last 12 presidential elections, no one has been elected until at least the fourth ballot.

To pass the time, people have fun voting for a wide range of people. There is no ballot. You just write any name you like, even fictional characters.

So far this year we’ve had votes for pop stars, footballers and even former Prime Minister Bettino Craxi – and he’s been dead for two years. There were also five votes for Guido De Martini, an MP who was unable to travel to Rome because he does not have a vaccination card and was therefore banned from boarding a ferry or of a plane from his home in Sardinia.

Whether the general public is interested or not (and they probably aren’t), the election is being treated with great prominence, with some of the major TV stations holding marathon sessions for days on end. But could this be the last election of its kind?

There have been high-profile calls – including from Meloni of the Brethren of Italy and former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – for this to be the last presidential election held in this way and for future votes to be cast by the people. .

If that happens, his quirk — if nothing else — will be missed.

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