Former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has died at the age of 98. His passing marks the end of an era in Italian politics, as he was not only the longest-serving president but also a central figure in shaping the country’s post-war history.
A Historic Presidency
Giorgio Napolitano, who served as the President of Italy from 2006 until 2015, was a pivotal figure in the nation’s political landscape. He holds the distinction of being the first president in Italian history to be reelected to the office, a testament to his widespread popularity and the trust placed in him by the Italian people.
“Re Giorgio” – A Stabilizing Force
Born in Naples, Napolitano came to be affectionately known as “Re Giorgio” or “King George” for his role in providing stability during a tumultuous period in Italian politics. Italy’s political landscape has often been characterized by frequent changes and coalition governments, but Napolitano’s leadership ensured a smooth transition of executive power.
An “Anti-Berlusconi” Figure
Napolitano’s presidency was marked by his statesmanship and approval ratings that consistently hovered around 80%. He was often seen as an “anti-Berlusconi” figure, a reference to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was elected three times and was a more polarizing and divisive figure in Italian politics.
The Interventionist President
Critics of Napolitano labeled him an “interventionist” because of the active role he played in politics. Traditionally, the Italian presidency had been a symbolic and non-executive office. However, Napolitano’s approach reflected his commitment to ensuring the country’s stability and progress, even if it meant stepping beyond the traditional boundaries of the presidency.
A Lifelong Dedication to Politics
Napolitano’s impact on Italian politics spanned over six decades. He began his political career as a prominent figure in the Italian Communist Party, eventually transitioning into roles within the Italian and European Parliament. In 1992, he assumed the position of the president of Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies, and from 1996 to 1998, he served as the interior minister.
A Reluctant Leader
In 2013, faced with a deadlocked parliament, Napolitano made the reluctant decision to remain in office after his seven-year presidential term had officially ended. This move was a testament to his dedication to the country and his willingness to put its stability above all else. He eventually stepped down in 2015, leaving behind a legacy of remarkable leadership.
A Senator for Life
In recognition of his exceptional contributions to Italian politics, Napolitano was appointed Senator for Life in 2005 by former President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, further solidifying his status as a revered statesman.