Mattarella was careful not to extend his authority beyond what the Constitution specifies. The President of the Republic is specifically authorized by the latter to pass on the names not just of the Presidente del Consiglio but also on each of the ministers. Beyond his objecting to Paolo Savona, he actually suggested to both Salvini and Di Maio more than one alternative minister.
These suggestions were of persons known to be supportive of the M5S. It was Salvini in fact who indicated that it was either Paolo Savona or early elections. Indeed, at one point the president urged Di Maio to substitute himself for Savona, a suggestion which was refused. In effect, it was the combination of Salvini and Di Maio which attempted to force the President to accept Savona. It was Mattarella’s refusal (he was entirely in his rights to do so) that led to the crisis, and to exactly what followed.
Yes, Prof. Onida (as quoted by Prof. Nadia Urbinati) is correct to say that Mattarella, in refusing to accept Paolo Savona as Minister of Finance, was perhaps at the very edge of the powers conferred on his office by the Constitution. But he did not behave unconstitutionally, and therefore Di Maio’s irresponsible demand for impeachment of the President was irresponsible, and perhaps a dangerous indicator of how he and the M5S would behave if and when he and they come to power.
It might be added that President Mattarella did little more than have several of his predecessors at the Quirinale, when political circumstances in Italy demand action from the President of the Republic. Luigi Einaudi and Sandro Pertini, for example, come immediately to mind.
It is probable that Mr. Salvini took advantage of the Savona name simply to bring down the government and perhaps to force new elections. The Italian electorate does not consist only or even largely of fools.
It is probably premature to say that they are lining up to increase electoral support for Salvini and the Lega, an electoral outcome which may well lead Italy in the direction of political as well as economic disaster.