World briefs: Italian president resolute in face of economic crisis

Associated Press

ROME — Luigi Di Maio, who leads the Euro-skeptic 5-Star Movement, raised the specter of impeaching Italian president Sergio Mattarella earlier this week. The threat came after the president refused to submit to populist demands to appoint, as economy minister, an advocate of a backup plan for Italy’s exit from the Euro currency.

Those of who have followed Mattarella’s career say his refusal to bow to pressure reflects his character and courage of convictions.

Mattarella is someone “with strong, deep values,” said Sergio Fabbrini, director of the school of government at Rome’s private LUISS University. “His family was a bourgeois family that stood up to the Mafia and refused to compromise” with the powerful organization based in Sicily.

Mattarella’s willingness to accommodate different viewpoints — but also to draw lines he won’t cross — ultimately played out in the current political crisis.

In rebuffing the populists’ demands, Mattarella evoked a sense of justice, describing how the markets’ turmoil was eroding Italians savings and driving up business loan costs.

The populist narrative, Fabbrini said, depicts institutions like the presidency as “the bastion of the elite” and the “enemy of the people.”

In a critical moment, Mattarella crafted an alternative narrative.

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