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Italian Gridlock Deepens as Parliament Fails to Elect Speakers

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March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Italian legislators, meeting for the first time since inconclusive elections last month, failed to select parliamentary leaders as the country’s political gridlock deepened.

Both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies held two votes that failed to produce a speaker in either house. A third vote is under way in the Chamber. Lawmakers from the Democratic Party, which led the winning coalition in the February election, abstained to keep their options open for an agreement 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 as two-thirds of the votes are needed in the Chamber. A majority is required in the Senate, which none of the political forces can muster.

Rules Change

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 by the fourth ballot, Fiano said.

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.

Prime Minister Mario Monti may be available to lead the Senate if the appointment were part of a broader agreement to form a government, said Andrea Olivero, a senator for Monti’s Civic Choice coalition.

“Mario Monti is not trying to become president of the Senate, although he would be available in the context of a broad coalition” government, Olivero told reporters.

Monti would need to resign the premiership in order to lead the Senate, leading to the appointment of someone from his Cabinet as caretaker prime minister.

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: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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