Italian Parliament Faces Gridlock, Fails to Choose Speakers

Italian legislators, meeting for the first time since inconclusive elections last month, failed to select speakers for the houses of parliament in a sign of the country’s growing political gridlock.

Both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies will hold a second ballot today after the initial vote failed to produce a speaker in either house. Lawmakers from the Democratic Party, which led the winning coalition in the February election, didn’t vote for any candidate to keep their options open for an agreemennt with other parties.

“The blank ballots demonstrate that we are open to a political deal,” Emanuele Fiano, a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the PD, said in an interview.

The impasse illustrates the challenges President Giorgio Napolitano faces as he prepares to begin consultations next week with the main parties to try to form a government. The February vote left the PD with a majority in the lower house while former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo each won a blocking majority in the Senate.

There is little chance speakers will be chosen today on the second ballot as two-thirds of the votes are needed in the Chamber and an absolute majority required in the Senate, which none of the political forces can muster.

After three votes in the Chamber, the speaker can be elected by simple majority, which the PD does have in the lower house. The PD plans to propose Dario Franceschini, party whip in the previous government, for the post if there isn’t a broader deal with outside lawmakers by the fourth ballot, Fiano said.

Possible Runoff

The Senate voting procedure changes on the third ballot, when only a majority of senators present and voting is required. If that doesn’t produce results, a runoff is held between the two candidates with the most votes.

Bersani has been stymied in his efforts to from an alliance by Grillo, who has pledged to eliminate the main political parties, rather than support them. Bersani has ruled out a deal with Berlusconi, who is facing two possible corruption convictions this month and is also under investigation for paying lawmakers to sabotage the previous center-left government that fell in 2008.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Davis in Rome at abdavis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tim Quinson at tquinson@bloomberg.net

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