Napolitano elected for second term as Italy president after chaotic voting sessions
ROME - Reuters
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano lifts his hat as he meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks at the Chancellery in Berlin in this February 28 file photo. Napolitano was elected for a second term on April 20 following a last minute deal among party chiefs to break the deadlock after five previous ballots failed to produce a winner. REUTERS photoThe Italian parliament on April 20 re-elected President Giorgio Napolitano to serve a second term in an attempt to resolve the political stalemate following February's inconclusive election.
Napolitano was overwhelmingly elected by the 1,007 parliamentarians and regional representatives in a sixth round of voting after they had failed to find a mutually acceptable candidate in the previous attempts.
As most of parliament cheered his re-election, a group of around 500 demonstrators protested outside, with a much larger rally planned later in the day.
In normal circumstances the presidency is a largely ceremonial position, but at times of political instability the president plays a crucial role in forming a government and has the power to dissolve parliament.
At 87, Napolitano is one of the world's oldest heads of state and the fact that most of the main political forces virtually begged him to continue despite his numerous previous refusals shows the depth of the current impasse.
In almost two months since the election, Napolitano has failed to broker a solution to the gridlock that emerged from the February election which left no coalition with enough seats in parliament to form a government.
He is now expected to push for a broad coalition government. This possibility has so far been rejected by the centre-left, which won most seats at the election and refused to join forces with Berlusconi's centre-right.
Grillo calls for protest over 'coup d'etat'
Meanwhile, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement's leader, actor and comedian Beppe Grillo called on Italians to join him in protest outside parliament after President Giorgio Napolitano stood for a second term in what he called called a "coup d'etat".
Grillo, who drew hundreds of thousands to a rally in Rome before a February election in which his party of political newcomers claimed one in four votes, declared he was immediately abandoning a campaign in the north of Italy to drive 650 km (410 miles) to the Rome parliament.
"There are decisive moments in the history of a nation," the former comedian wrote in a blog post titled 'call to Italians'. "Tonight I will be in front of parliament. I will stay there as long as is necessary. There have to be millions of us."
Grillo says he is convinced traditional parties he blames for Italy's economic decline and corruption have already agreed to govern together in a coalition to preserve the status quo.
He described an agreement between leaders of the main centre-left, centre-right and centrist parties to ask Napolitano to run again to break a political deadlock as a "coup d'etat".
On April 20, protesters chanted in favour of the presidential candidate chosen by 5-Star supporters in an online vote, the left-wing academic Stefano Rodota, and held up banners reading "Italy screams for Rodota as president".
The 5-Star Movement rode a huge protest vote to become one of three main forces in parliament, driven by frustration at economic hardship and a discredited political class.