Italian politicians paid tribute Friday to former president Giorgio Napolitano, a veteran of several governments, who died at the age of 98. Renowned for his moderation and statesmanship, Napolitano was regarded as a guarantor of stability in a time of chronic turbulence in Italian politics.
The former Communist Party leader served as head of state in a number of governments between 2006 and 2015. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni offered her cabinet’s “deepest condolences” to Napolitano’s family.
The country’s current president, Sergio Mattarella, said Napolitano had led “important battles for social development, peace and progress in Italy and Europe. And Pope Francis, in a telegram to Napolitano’s widow, paid tribute to a man he described as having dedicated his career to preserving the “unity and harmony” of his country.
Born in 1925 under Mussolini’s rule, Napolitano joined a communist resistance group at the age of 17, before joining the party in 1945 and being elected to parliament in 1953.
After the dissolution of the Communist Party, Napolitano rose to the top of Italian politics with the Democratic Party of the Left. He was elected president in 2006 and served as head of state during a period of chronic political instability.
Despite his plan to retire after his first term in 2013, inconclusive legislative elections forced Napolitano back into office until his resignation in 2015.
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