A New Cat as Italy’s President

There’s a good way to find out how cold the coming night will be here and that is to count (if one has any) how many cats start making themselves comfortable on one’s bed. In our home we have three official cats and three unofficial ones.

The official cats are as follows:

Name                   When adopted                 Where found                               Colour     

Napoleone (Nap) August 2006                   Stables at Pian di Ruscello             White & grey

Carlotta                August 2012                   Piccole cucce at Borgo                  Calico                                                                                                                                                           Cheekie               August 2014                   Piccole cucce at Marlia                  Calico


The unofficial cats are as follows

Name                  When accepted                 Where found

Monterosso        August 2005                       Nearby wood-pile                         Tabby

Lavagna              August   2005                    Nearby wood-pile                         White & grey

Nerina                 September 2012                Ex- neighbour’s                            Black

Now let’s spot them in these photographs:

More close-ups may be needed.

Here’s Carlotta

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Here’s Nap:

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I haven’t yet been quite ousted from my bed. The cats are quite accommodating and allow me to get in too.

We all seven woke up this morning to the news that a new Italian president had been elected (after four voting sessions). Napolitano, it will be remembered was the previous president. Although presidents are elected for seven years Napolitano was, uniquely, asked to start a second term because the country’s political situation in 2013 was so dire. He agreed to this provided, he said, he could retire when he wished which was this year when he’ll be 90.

Of course, presidents in Italy have nothing like the executive power they have in such countries as, for example, France. Here presidents are what Renzi accurately calls arbiters. They are mainly ceremonial figureheads although they have several non-negligible constitutional powers (rather like the Queen in the UK). These are the president’s main powers. He can:

  • Appoint a prime minister
  • Dissolve the two houses of the Italian parliament
  • Veto laws and decrees.

Notice it’s a “he”. Italy has yet to appoint a woman president (although she has a woman president of the Italian equivalent of the House of Commons, Laura Boldrini.) There were, however, suggestions that an ex trade union leader might have become the first woman president. Perhaps next time?

Sergio Mattarella was born in Palermo in 1941, becomes Italy’s 12th president and the first one to hail from Sicily. He belonged to the old Democrazia Cristiana party, and then joined the Partito Popolare Italiano, where he held various ministerial duties and is now a supporter of the Partito Democratico which has pleased Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, no end since Matteo has had some bother getting through his treasured reforms.

What are these reforms? The most important ones centre on work contracts and the electoral system. In fact, Mattarella was the mover of one of Italy’s first electoral reform law which is named after him (“il mattarellum”) in 1993. Italy’s great dream is to have a mature democracy and there is a deep yearning to have a Sistema Bi-camerale, i.e. a mainly two-party system as in the UK’s “mother of all parliaments”. Certainly, it needs something rather different from the present situation if the economy is to get moving again.

A few family details: Sergio’s elder brother was assassinated by Cosa Nostra when governor of Sicily. His wife, who was his elder brother’s wife’s sister and Palermo University’s rector’s daughter, died in 2012. He has three sons, one of whom is a professor at Siena university.

For me the important thing is that before becoming president Mattarella held the post of parliamentary constitutional judge so he has considerable knowledge of the problems of parliamentary reform in Italy


Sergio Mattarella and Laura Boldrini (official photo) 

I have ventured into politics in this post because politics permeates Italy in a way inconceivable in the UK. All higher jobs, whether they be in the public or private sector, are dealt out according to political persuasion and promotion often depends rather more on what party one supports than what one’s actual abilities are.

Having the right bits of paper, especially the right” raccomandate”, (letters of recommendation) and, of course, the right connections are the secret of so many successful careers in Italy. I wonder how much of this still occurs in the UK? Perhaps, in a subtler way, I think it does.

Anyway, my cats have achieved success in their careers without any such bureaucratic paraphernalia and they are guaranteed free board and lodging and endless affection for life. If re-incarnation exists I think I might be tempted to choose a different species from the one I belong to at present… or not?

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