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Vale Giorgio Napolitano: Remembering the Legacy of an Italian Statesman

Vale Giorgio Napolitano: Remembering the Legacy of an Italian Statesman

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Italian President Giorgio Napolitano: A Political Legacy Remembered

Giorgio Napolitano, who served as the President of Italy from 2006 to 2015, has passed away at the age of 98. While some may dismiss the role of an Italian president as largely ceremonial, Napolitano proved that this description was far from accurate. He demonstrated his political acumen and ability to navigate through crisis by deftly appointing successors, steering three successive prime ministers into government, none of whom had led their party to victory in a general election.

A Master of Political Maneuvering

One of Napolitano’s most notable achievements was in late 2011 when he lined up a successor for the struggling Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He secured the appointment of former EU commissioner Mario Monti as a life senator in parliament, effectively setting the stage for Monti to take over during the eurozone crisis. In 2013, when the Italian legislature reached a deadlock and could not agree on a new president, Napolitano, then 87 years old, reluctantly agreed to stay on and ultimately appointed Enrico Letta as prime minister. When Letta’s government faced a stall in 2014, Napolitano gave his blessing to a smooth transition of power to Matteo Renzi, Letta’s party leader.

Napolitano’s ability to navigate political impasses and bring together diverse factions is a testament to his astute political maneuvering. His success in steering three prime ministers into government, despite their lack of election victories, earned him the nickname “King George,” reflecting his noble bearing, command of English, and resemblance to Italy’s last king, Umberto II.

A Surprising Communist

As a member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) until its closure in 1991, Napolitano’s political journey is a surprising one. Born in Naples to a middle-class family, he first dabbled in right-wing politics as a member of the Gruppo Universitario Fascista. However, he quickly moved leftwards and joined the PCI in 1945. Napolitano’s political ideology evolved over the years, and he eventually became one of the central committee members and a leader of the moderate faction within the PCI, known as the “improver” tendency.

His moderation was evident in his disagreements with Enrico Berlinguer, the leader of the PCI in the 1970s. Napolitano was known for his moderate stance, which even earned him the title of “my favorite communist” from Henry Kissinger. He played a significant role in breaking away from the Soviet brand of Marxism, advocating for a distinctive, non-Soviet brand of Marxism more suited to the conditions of Western Europe.

Challenges and Controversies

Napolitano’s political career was not without challenges and controversies. During Silvio Berlusconi’s tenure as prime minister, Napolitano, as a former Marxist, faced accusations of ideological bias. To dispel these claims, he made decisions that were criticized by his opponents, such as signing a bill that granted the prime minister immunity and endorsing a bill that allowed the prime minister to delay court proceedings against him.

However, Napolitano’s reputation as being soft on Berlusconi was challenged as the repercussions of the Eurozone crisis unfolded in Italy in 2011. The coordinated efforts between Napolitano, Mario Draghi (President of the European Central Bank), and Angela Merkel (German Chancellor) to facilitate Mario Monti’s appointment as Prime Minister highlight the complex political landscape at the time and the challenges faced by Napolitano.

A Lasting Legacy

Giorgio Napolitano’s political legacy will be remembered as one of astute maneuvering, moderation, and the ability to navigate through complex political landscapes. His achievements in steering three prime ministers into government demonstrated his skill in finding solutions during times of crisis and deadlock. Despite his communist background, Napolitano’s moderation allowed him to build bridges across political factions and earn the trust of the Italian people.

Although controversies surrounded some of his decisions, it is through the lens of his political achievements and ability to lead that Napolitano will be remembered by future generations. His passing marks the end of an era in Italian politics, leaving a void that will not easily be filled.

Giorgio Napolitano is survived by his wife, Clio, and their two sons, Giulio and Giovanni.


Vale Giorgio Napolitano: Remembering the Legacy of an Italian Statesman
<< photo by Colin Lloyd >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.

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