Italy parliament fails to elect state president

Italy parliament fails to elect state president

ROME - Reuters
Italy parliament fails to elect state president

PD (Democratic Party) leader Pierluigi Bersani casts his ballot during the presidential election in the lower house of the parliament in Rome April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Italy's parliament failed to elect a new state president in its first vote on Thursday, with divisions in the centre-left alliance torpoedoing a quick victory for its official candidate Franco Marini.

Marini, a former Senate speaker, won just over 520 votes, well below the required two thirds majority or 672 of the 1007 members of both houses of parliament and regional representatives in the presidential poll.

A second ballot will be held later on Thursday and voting will continue through the weekend if necessary.

Marini's failure, in a vote which is key to filling a government vacuum since the deadlocked general election in February, was a setback for Pier Luigi Bersani. The centre-left leader split his party by nominating Marini in a deal with centre-right boss Silvio Berlusconi.

Many rebellious centre-left parliamentarians were believed to have voted for academic Stefano Rodota, candidate of the populist 5-Star Movement of former comic Beppe Grillo.

Rodota won more than 240 votes and there were also more than 100 blank or spoilt ballots.

After three rounds of voting, only an absolute majority is required but the chances for Marini, 80, may decline as time passes, wrecking Bersani's deal with Berlusconi which is aimed at helping him form a minority government.

Bersani has repeatedly refused to agree to Berlusconi's demands that they form a broad coalition government together. But it is widely believed he wants to parley an agreement on the presidency with centre-right willingness to support a minority centre-left government.
Fury on left

The vote for a successor to President Giorgio Napolitano, whose term ends on May 15, is a crucial step towards resolving the stalemate since an inconclusive election in February which left no party with enough support to form a government.

However the choice of Marini provoked fury in Bersani's Democratic Party (PD) and an open revolt by his rival, Matteo Renzi, the 38-year-old mayor of Florence.

Renzi described the 80-year-old Marini as "a candidate from the last century" who had no charisma or international standing, adding that he was only chosen because he was acceptable to Berlusconi.

"The PD is in fragments, it doesn't exist anymore," Renato Brunetta, the parliamentary leader of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party, told Canale 5 television.

Bersani's leftist allies in the Left Ecology and Freedom (SEL) party said Marini was unacceptable and that their 46 parliamentarians would vote for Rodota.

Until the new president is elected, the paralysis that has hobbled attempts to form a government for more than 50 days since the election will continue.