ROME (dpa) – Italy’s longest-serving head of state, Giorgio Napolitano, quit his office Wednesday after an almost nine-year tenure, formalising a move he announced two weeks ago.
In a statement, Napolitano’s office said a copy of his resignation letter was delivered to the speakers of both houses of parliament, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, and to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The 89-year-old president was keen to retire, due to the strains of old age. Two years ago he reluctantly agreed to start a second seven-year mandate, after parliament could not agree on a successor, but warned he would not last a full term.
In a January 31 farewell speech, he described his years in the presidency as “long and tormented”. On Tuesday, he said he was “happy to go home” and described the presidential Quirinale palace as “very beautiful” but “a bit like a prison”.
Napolitano led the country through four changes of government, two general elections, and economic woes that nearly resulted in default in late 2011. That crisis was resolved after he called on technocrat Mario Monti to replace the scandal-weakened Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister.
Senate speaker Pietro Grasso was slated to act as temporary president until a new head of state is picked. Just over 1,000 national and regional lawmakers are scheduled to start voting on it within two weeks.
Speculation is rife on who will replace Napolitano.