Giorgio Napolitano, the communist who became monarch of republican Italy, dies

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It was April 2013 when Giorgio Napolitano, at 87 years old, was forced to return to the Chamber of Deputies, a room he did not expect to return to after the end of his seven-year term as President of the Republic. The Italian politicians, who had just emerged from tumultuous polls, had failed in one of their most important tasks, the secular conclave that has been held every seven years since 1948 to elect the president of the Republic.

Napolitano, an octogenarian and with decades of service to his country behind him, returned to the Montecitorio palace with emotion, but he was not up to joking. In his speech he scolded politicians for a lack of responsibility that in his opinion had condemned Italy to sterility. And then he was sworn in for his second term, being the first president of the Italian Republic to repeat the position and becoming the longest-serving monarch in the history of republican Italy to date.

King Giorgio, or Lord George, as he was called, was the first Western communist leader who was authorized to travel to the United States, and above all, the guardian of the Italian labyrinth during the hard years of the economic crisis and the fall of the berlusconism. He died this Friday at the age of 98.

In 2018 he underwent emergency heart surgery and in May he underwent abdominal surgery.

For some years now, the senator for life, due to his advanced age, had been suffering from health problems and admitted that he felt fragile. In 2018 he underwent emergency heart surgery in an intervention that left him with consequences. In May he underwent abdominal surgery. When he resigned, in 2015, after an unprecedented two-year encore, Napolitano explained that he had verified the limitations imposed by age in the exercise of institutional duties.

Born on June 29, 1925 in Naples, he never had any other vocation other than politics. He followed the path marked by his father, Giovanni Napolitano, a prestigious Neapolitan lawyer with cultural interests, and studied law. But he did not hesitate to found an anti-fascist cell with other young people opposed to Mussolini who ended up carrying out resistance actions against the Nazis in Campania. In 1945, after the war, he joined the Italian Communist Party (PCI), of which he would end up being one of its most prominent leaders of the opening wing of the most important communist formation outside the Soviet Union.

Italian head of state Sergio Mattarella shakes hands with his predecessor Giorgio Napolitano during a meeting in 2018


The first elections in which he participated were the second since the proclamation of the Republic, those of 1953, which registered an important advance on the left of the PCI and the PSI. Since then, he obtained a seat for the next 41 years. He was comfortable in international travel and traveled to the US in 1978, where he gave a lecture at Harvard. He dealt with foreign policy and economic policy

Between the sixties and seventies he stood next to Giorgio Amendola, the representative of the soul of the party most inclined to a rapprochement with European social democracy. After the fall of the Berlin Wall he remained active, despite the dissolution of the PCI, and in 1992 he became president of the Chamber of Deputies. He was a European parliamentarian and Romano Prodi's Minister of the Interior as a reward for having contributed to forming the Olivo.

His greatest responsibility came in 2006, when he was promoted to head of state.

His greatest responsibility came in 2006, when he was promoted to head of state. Although he did not achieve a comfortable majority, he soon demonstrated that he had been a good option due to his talent in navigating the various crises he had to face, from the fall of the Prodi government in 2008 to that of Berlusconi in 2011, in the midst of the European financial maelstrom. with the successive ascension of the technocrat Mario Monti.

To prevent Italy from bleeding into a political battle, he agreed to become the first president in the history of the Italian Republic to have a second seven-year term. His successor, Sergio Mattarella, has followed the same path. The Constitution did not prevent it, but until then it had been considered that a seven-year term was more than enough to leave a mark on the country's democracy.

Giorgio Napolitano, re-elected president of Italy.

Giorgio Napolitano when he was re-elected president of Italy at the age of 88

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It's not that Napolitano wanted it - he was almost 88 years old at the time and really wanted to retire - but he understood the surrender of the Italian political parties, who came to the Quirinal to beg him to do this last service to the country. Even the Italian bishops understood the impasse that Rome was in and pressured it to accept. It was a time when Italy was blocked due to the lack of agreements after the February 2013 elections and the country's international image was in question. He resigned two years later, when it was the Sicilian Mattarella's turn.

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Giorgio Napolitano became, circumstantially, the first president in Italian history to repeat his mandate

Also known as “King Umberto”, he was characterized by his prudence and rigid temperament.

Napolitano was a unique character. Also known as “King Umberto” due to his obvious physical resemblance to the last Italian monarch and his measured style, he was characterized by his prudence and rigid temperament forged in the school of Italian communists. But he also had an artistic soul, particularly in poetry. He became a patron of Pablo Neruda, whom he helped finance the publication of his famous Captain's Verses that he wrote in Capri in the early fifties, in an anonymous first edition since they were dedicated to his mistress. The Chilean Nobel Prize winner coincided with Napolitano when he had just joined the PCI and was hanging out with left-wing intellectuals, and they forged a great friendship that led them to spend an unforgettable New Year's Eve between 1951 and 1952, according to what the Italian would write decades later. With his death, Italy loses one of the last great political minds of recent times.

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