Giorgio Napolitano, former Italy president, passes away at 98

He served as President from 2006 to 2015, and was the first head of state to be elected for a second mandate in 2013

Giorgio Napolitano
Giorgio Napolitano

Italy’s 11th President, Giorgio Napolitano passed away at the age of 98 on Friday.

Napolitano was the country’s first post-Communist president, having been militant, and then leader of the reformist wing of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) until the establishment of the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) in 1991.

He was born in Naples on 29 June 1925 and got married in 1959.

Like many other future politicians of his generation, Napolitano fought against the Italian fascists and Nazi occupiers during the second world war.

When the war ended, he joined the Communist party, and in 1953, he was elected to parliament, an office he would hold for 10 straight legislatures.

Napolitano served as a member of the European Parliament from 1989 to 1992, before his election as Speaker of Italy's Lower House from 1992 until 1994.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Napolitano was among the staunchest supporters of his party’s reform path, which would lead to changing its name and dropping the hammer-and-sickle symbol.

As interior minister in the 1996-1998 centre-left government of Romano Prodi, he gave his name to Italy's first comprehensive immigration law, the so-called 'Turco-Napolitano', in 1998.

He served as President from 2006 to 2015, and was the first head of state to be elected for a second mandate in 2013.

Napolitano resigned in January 2015, paving the way for Mattarella, a former Christian Democrat, to be elected. Mattarella would go on to be himself twice elected to the presidency, again after renewed political gridlock in parliament thwarted the election of a fresh candidate in 2022.

Napolitano had been in hospital in Rome for weeks.

PN Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Beppe Fenech Adami conveyed the Opposition's condolences to the Italian state and its people.

"As a two-time former President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano served his country with loyalty, with absolute respect for the value of solidarity, freedom, and democracy. A politician who fully believed in the European project," Fenech Adami said.

Spokesperson for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade

Mattarella said that Napolitano’s life “mirrored a large part of [Italy’s] history in the second half of the 20th century, with its dramas, its complexity, its goals, its hopes”.

In a condolence telegram to Napolitano’s widow, Clio, Pope Francis said the late president “showed great gifts of intellect and sincere passion for Italian political life as well as strong interest for the fates of nations”.

Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right party is at the opposite end of the political spectrum to the late president, expressed condolences in the name of her government.