Giorgio Napolitano, who has been president of Italy since 2006, is expected to resign from office in the coming hours. The 89-year-old reluctantly agreed to a second term in order to end a 2013 parliamentary deadlock.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano would resign from office "within hours," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced Tuesday.
Napolitano, 89, said in December that he would like to resign because of age-related health problems. He had been widely expected to step down after the end of Italy's six-month presidency of the European Union, which also concludes on Tuesday.
"I would like us to salute Napolitano, a committed Europeanist who in these hours will leave his position…having confronted difficulties in Italy with intelligence and wisdom," Renzi said in a speech to the European Parliament.
Napolitano, a long-time member of the Italian Communist Party, was first elected president in 2006 as a member of the Democratic Party of the Left. He reluctantly agreed to serve a second term in 2013 in order to break a parliamentary deadlock that followed the 2013 general election.
The Italian president has the power to appoint prime ministers, dissolve parliament and call early elections.
Voting for a new president is likely to begin at the end of January. A two-thirds majority in both the upper and lower houses in the first three rounds of voting will be needed to choose Napolitano's successor.
Possible candidates to take over Napolitano's role include former Prime Minister and former European Commission President Romano Prodi, as well as former Prime Minister Giuliano Amato.
bw/kms (AFP, Reuters)