Laura Boldrini Chosen Speaker of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies

Laura Boldrini, a journalist and former spokeswoman for the UN’s refugee agency, was chosen speaker of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies as Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani seeks to broaden his support.

Boldrini, endorsed today by Bersani’s party, won on the fourth ballot in the lower house when the rules were eased to allow for a candidate to be chosen by a simple majority rather than two-thirds. Bersani now turns his attention to the Senate, where members of the Democratic Party proposed Pietro Grasso, the nation’s top anti-mafia prosecutor.

The assignment of speakerships is parliament’s first step toward forming a government following the inconclusive general election last month. By eschewing incumbent lawmakers and proposing political newcomers, Bersani is appealing to members of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. The endorsements were criticized by Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty Party.

The gridlock over naming the speakers 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 Democratic Party, or PD, with a majority in the lower house while Berlusconi and Grillo, an ex-comic, each won a blocking minority in the Senate.

Boldrini was elected as part of the Left, Ecology and Freedom party, or SEL. The party, headed by Puglia Governor Nicchi Vendola, is an ally of the PD and said during the election campaign that Bersani was its choice for premier. Grasso is a member of the PD.

Vito Crimi, Five Star’s head in the Senate, praised Bersani for backing political neophytes for the speakerships, while criticizing him for not selecting lawmakers from outside of the PD-SEL alliance, newswire Ansa reported. Angelino Alfano, general secretary of the People of Liberty, said Bersani’s attempt to build consensus will fail.

“With Grasso in the Senate and Boldrini in the Chamber, the country will remain without a government,” Alfano said on Twitter.

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