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Prodi Nominated for Italy Presidency as Bersani Lags

Former Prime Minister Romano Prodi
Lawmakers of the Democratic Party, or PD, voted unanimously today to endorse former Prime Minister Romano Prodi a day after rebelling over Bersani’s original pick, Franco Marini, whom he backed in a deal with three-time Premier Berlusconi. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani turned to former Prime Minister Romano Prodi as a candidate for the Italian presidency after members of his party rejected his first choice, rupturing a rapprochement with Silvio Berlusconi.

“Romano Prodi is able to unite our coalition and we’re sure he can even go beyond our borders,” said Stefano Fassina, economic spokesman for Bersani’s Democratic Party.

Lawmakers for the Democrats, or PD, voted unanimously today to endorse Prodi a day after rebelling over Bersani’s original pick, Franco Marini, who the party leader backed in a deal with three-time Premier Berlusconi. Prodi, 73, and a former Europe Union Commission president, defeated the billionaire media magnate in two elections.

The third round of presidential voting is underway in Parliament after two failed ballots yesterday.

Without an agreement on a candidate between the two main parties, “chances of new elections as soon as the third quarter of this year” would increase, Barclays Plc economist Fabio Fois said in a note to investors today.

Investors are taking the gridlock in stride. The yield on Italian 10-year bonds fell 2 basis points to 4.24 percent at 11:00 a.m. in Rome, narrowing the difference between yields on similar maturity German bunds by 4 basis points to 299 basis points. The 10-year yield is now lower than before the Feb. 24-25 vote.

‘Campaign Mode’

“We are now in election campaign mode,” Renato Brunetta, chief whip of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party, or PDL, said after the nomination of Prodi in an interview with SkyTG24 television.

The PDL widened its lead over the PD in an opinion poll released today by SWG. Berlusconi’s coalition would win 33.8 percent of the vote if elections were held today, with the PD getting 31 percent. Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement was at 24 percent, SWG said.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti said his Civic Choice party will endorse Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri for the presidency. Monti also praised Prodi, saying he would make a good president, though his candidacy risked dividing rather than uniting Italy’s political forces.

The PD’s choice of Prodi was a “desperate attempt to safeguard the party’s unity, not the country’s unity,” Monti said at a press conference in Rome.

Fourth Round

The PDL may also consider supporting Cancellieri, Brunetta said. Five Star plans to stick with its initial choice of Stefano Rodota, lawmakers for the party said.

Bersani may have enough support to install Prodi from the fourth round of voting as soon as this afternoon, when the threshold for victory is lowered to a simple majority of the 1,007 electors from the two-thirds needed during the first three rounds. Bersani may resign as PD leader after the presidential succession is resolved, daily la Repubblica reported today.

The next head of state, who will succeed President Giorgio Napolitano, 87, will become the key figure in the effort to resolve the political impasse. The president appoints the prime minister and, when stalemates prove intractable, dissolves parliament and calls new elections.

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