Mattarella: 'I am not a sovereign, I promulgate and do not sign'

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Mattarella: 'I am not a sovereign, I promulgate and do not sign'
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“Fortunately I am a president and I am not a sovereign” who, as in the times of the Albertine Statute, signed laws only if he liked them. In Italy today there is a republic, a very clear division of powers and it no longer works like that: the head of state has the duty to promulgate the laws even if he doesn't like them or doesn't agree with them. Sergio Mattarella is evidently tired of the blows that are increasingly affecting the Quirinale, both from the right (including the government) and from the left, and is forced into a pointed repetition – unpaid but evidently necessary – of constitutional law, the rough synthesis of which is “stop pulling me by the jacket”, the Charter explains everything.

The head of state uses the opportunity of an audience with Casagit, the supplementary assistance of Italian journalists, to defend freedom of the press, defined as “fundamental” for the maintenance of democracy. Words that are not to be taken for granted in Italian current affairs shaken by the scandal of illegal access to hundreds of personal data. Perhaps for this reason Mattarella adds an emphasis on the equally indispensable responsibility of the press to carry out its work with “loyalty”. But this is not the heart of the presidential message which Mattarella instead dedicates to redefining his own role which today seems stretched to the liking of the parties, often used instrumentally by shaking that public image of “referee” which the president has meticulously maintained since beginning of his first term.

Here is the “memo” that Colle delivers to the political forces, where some passages of his role are unclear or have faded over the years: “sometimes I have the impression that someone still thinks about the Albertine Statute in which the legislative function was entrusted jointly to the two Chambers and the king. When the Chambers approved the law, the king, before promulgating it, had to add his sanction, that is, his sharing in the merit, because he had also attributed the legislative power. Fortunately it is no longer like this. The President of the Republic is not a sovereign, fortunately, and therefore does not have this power”, he attacks decisively and then explains where the need to clarify something that does not need to be clarified comes from. “The President of the Republic is frequently invoked with different and different motivations. There are those who address him vehemently asking: “the President of the Republic does not sign this law because he cannot agree with it, because it is seriously wrong”, or: “the President of the Republic he signed that law and therefore shared it, approved it, made it his own”.

Words from which it is clear how tired the Quirinale is of finding itself called upon to settle fights between parties, of being used as a source of legitimation of the government's measures and, last but not least, of being painted as the leader of the opposition. A clarification that falls – but is only one example of many – on the day in which he promulgated the controversial measure establishing the Parliamentary Commission on Covid, which many judge to be a sort of political trial for an entire ruling class.

“The President of the Republic does not sign the laws, he signs the promulgation, which is a very different thing. It is that indispensable act for the publication and entry into force of the laws, with which the President of the Republic certifies that the Chambers have both approved a new law, in the same text, and that this text does not present aspects of evident unconstitutionality”, recalls urbi et orbi. Because in this case “the task entrusted to the Constitutional Court would be unduly arrogated”.

Even more serious, then, would be if a president did not promulgate a law because he does not like it.
The balance of power must be the compass for everyone, not just for the Quirinale. The warning is intended to be clear and, hopefully, definitive: “it would be serious” if one of the institutional powers “claimed to assign itself tasks that the Constitution assigns to other state powers”. “The Constitution assigns a task, which no one else can take away and do it their own”. My fundamental task, the referee reminds us, is to “enforce the constitution”. .

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