“This is too much for me,” Bersani, 61, said yesterday in a statement on the Democratic Party website. “I cannot accept that my party is standing in the way of a solution.”
The resignation wraps up five months of missteps and setbacks for Bersani, who struggled to connect with voters, failed to strike alliances and ultimately was deserted by allies. The Democratic Party, or PD, is seeking to regroup as special electors meet in Rome for a third day to select a new president of Italy. Bersani’s candidates were rejected in the first two days of voting.
Bersani squandered a 15 percentage-point lead in opinion polls and barely beat former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the Feb. 24-25 general election, winning a majority in the Chamber of Deputies while falling short in the Senate. Deadlock ensued as Bersani, a former communist and ex-industry minister, fruitlessly pressed rivals to back his bid to form a government.
“Bersani’s stock clearly went down within the party after he squandered the center-left’s lead in the electoral campaign and failed to produce a Senate majority,” said Peter Ceretti, a Eurasia Group analyst in New York. “The presidential election has been a defeat for the PD, and it’s now difficult to see how they will proceed.”
Presidential candidates capable of drawing consensus include Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri and former Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, Corriere Della Sera reported today. Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso, a PD member, is in the running, and a push to re-elect President Giorgio Napolitano is also a possibility, La Repubblica reported.
Napolitano, 87, has previously said he wouldn’t accept a second mandate.
The PD splintered after Bersani embraced Berlusconi with his first nominee for president, ex-Senate Speaker Franco Marini. When that pick failed to pass on April 18, Bersani reversed course and turned to former Prime Minister Romano Prodi, a longtime adversary of Berlusconi.
Prodi’s candidacy was rejected yesterday in the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, where 1,007 electors vote by secret ballot. Prodi, who helped found the PD after serving as prime minister and European Commission president, got just 395 votes, less than the 496 electors in Bersani’s contingent.
“One in four among us betrayed” the party, Bersani said in his statement. “There is a push to destroy the PD.”
Bersani said the PD’s presidential electors will cast blank ballots in the first vote today as the party decides on its next steps. Cancellieri’s candidacy is supported by Prime Minister Mario Monti and his Civic Choice, the fourth-biggest party in parliament.
The electors, comprised of all national lawmakers and some regional representatives, are casting two ballots a day until a simple majority is created around a single candidate.
Napolitano’s successor will become the key figure in resolving Italy’s political impasse. The president, given a seven-year term, appoints prime ministers and, when stalemates prove intractable, can call snap elections.
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