Rome: Italian President Giorgio Napolitano confirmed his early resignation while delivering his New Year address to the nation. Napolitano also urged the country to tackle its major problems, such as corruption and youth unemployment, and proceed swiftly on the reform path with courage and more confidence.
“My speech tonight will be destined also to the one who will soon take in the role of president I am about to leave, giving my resignation,” Xinhua quoted him as saying at the beginning of his speech Wednesday.
The president explained he could not underestimate the signs of fatigue of his age and could no longer hold the office he was asked to take in for the first time in 2006. He expressed hopes Italian parties would be able to face calmly a new presidential election.
“I think my simple explanations may constitute a good premise for the political forces to prepare themselves serenely to the election of a new president of the republic, which will be a test of maturity in the interest of the country,” Napolitano stated.
The veteran politician, now 89, was re-elected for a second term in April 2013 in order to break a two-month-long stalemate in parliament that followed inconclusive general elections.
His re-election was an unprecedented event for Italy, since never in the 68-year history of the republic had a president been asked to serve a second term.
Napolitano reluctantly accepted at the time, stressing, however, he would do it “out of a sense of responsibility only, given the risks of financial and political breakdown Italy faced in spring 2013”.
He always made it clear he would not carry out his full second term and, in mid-December, he confirmed media rumours that his resignation was “imminent”.
“My re-election helped to give the country a cabinet and encouraged a more constructive dialogue among political parties,” Napolitano said Wednesday.
“It also avoided the risk of confirming an image of instability that so much penalises our country (abroad) and it did set in motion the necessary reform process,” he said.
Yet, it was now time for Italy to return to normality, he said.
During his address, broadcast on TV at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome, Napolitano urged political forces to keep going on with reforms, starting from the institutional and economic ones.
He also exhorted citizens to have more confidence in the future despite the difficulties brought about by a long economic crisis that is not yet over.
“We must find again those sources of cohesion and collective willingness that allowed us to overcome the toughest tests in our past, and each of you must do you part,” the president said.
Napolitano recalled with distress the most recent scandals that hit the country, starting from the mafia probe involving high-ranking officers, local politicians, and entrepreneurs in Rome, and said the country must recover from a widespread corruption.
His speech also highlighted the emergency of unemployment among young Italians.
“There is a dominant worry for the condition of our economy and consumptions, for the decrease in households’ income and, a key issue, for the youth unemployment,” Napolitano said.
Despite this framework, he urged citizens to not be overcome with fear or give in to a general distrust of politics.
“The new chances of development for Italy depends on the way each of us will react to the crisis and current difficulties. We must give our best, with passion, fighting spirit and sacrifice,” he concluded.
Though no official date has been given, Napolitano’s early resignation may come soon after Italy completes its six-month presidency of the European Union (EU).
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was the first to praise the president’s speech with a message on his Twitter account.
“Nine years of service, authority, and responsibility. To this President we can only say: thank Giorgio,” he wrote.