Italy Fails to Elect President as Bersani Coalition Fractures

Democratic Party Parliamentarian Giuseppe Civati
Democratic Party Parliamentarian Giuseppe Civati said in an interview, “They’re going to vote for Marini, but not me. It’s all wrong. There’s no popular support.” Photographer: Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images

Italy’s Parliament failed to elect a president today as Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani faced a revolt from his allies after he sought to compromise with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Bersani was deserted by allies on the first ballot as Franco Marini, the candidate he backed with Berlusconi forces received 521 of 1,007 possible votes, less than the necessary two-thirds majority. With no path to a Marini victory, both the Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s forces cast blank ballots on the second vote. The election continues at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

“It’s another manifestation of how deeply divided Italy has become and how much resentment and mistrust there is among the leading politicians,” said Georg Grodzki, head of credit research at Legal & General Investment Management in London.

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

Bersani signaled that he would reconsider Marini’s candidacy as he prepared for talks with members of his Democratic Party, or PD.

“It’s necessary to acknowledge that we are in a new phase,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “At this point the PD has the responsibility to advance a proposal to the Parliament.”

Early Election

Speaking at a rally in norther Italy, Berlusconi said that if a strong government didn’t emerge “it would be better to hold elections in June.”

Bersani’s compromise with his rival was seen by lawmakers as a move toward an agreement on a coalition government, riling many of Bersani’s supporters.

“A government with Berlusconi was never in our plans; Marini was a sign of an accord on certain points but certainly not an alliance or broad coalition afterwards,” said Paolo Corsini, a PD lawmaker, who rejected Marini and voted for former Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

Bersani may have more success with a new candidate tomorrow afternoon when the voting rules change on the fourth ballot to allow victory by a simple majority.

Marini garnered 521 votes in the first vote, more than twice that of Stefano Rodota, the candidate of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. More than 400 lawmakers cast blank ballots in the second vote.

Grillo’s Rise

“The biggest mistake we made with Marini is making a choice that divided the PD,” PD lawmaker Matteo Orfini said in an interview televised on RAINews24. “We need a new name.”

The Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s People of Liberty, or PDL, were thrown together by the emergence of Grillo, an ex-comic and anti-corruption crusader who won a blocking minority in the February elections. Five Star, which refused to support Bersani’s bid for the premiership last month, campaigned against political scandals and says its aim is to sweep established lawmakers from power.

Grillo is gaining support from Bersani’s group. Rodota, a professor and former lawmaker with a forerunner party of the PD, is getting the votes of Bersani ally Nichi Vendola and some dissenting PD members.

Berlusconi is appealing convictions in wire-tapping and tax fraud cases. He is also standing trial accused of paying a minor for sex and abusing the powers of his office. He has denied all the charges.

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