Italy Presidential Vote Set as Rift in Democratic Party Deepens

Italian lawmakers will begin the election of a new president on April 18 as the legislature seeks to end a political impasse that’s left the country without a new government six weeks after elections.

The 1,007-member electoral college, including all national lawmakers and some regional representatives, will meet in Rome at 10 a.m. to start the vote, the Chamber of Deputies office said in an e-mailed statement. The Democratic Party, the country’s biggest political force, remains divided on who to nominate to succeed Giorgio Napolitano.

The president is largely a figurehead except in times of political crisis. The next head of state will have to make a new attempt to form a government and avoid a second general election this year after the Feb. 24-25 vote produced a divided Parliament.

Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, who lost a bid to be the party’s prime minister candidate to Pier Luigi Bersani in December, yesterday criticized some of the possible Democrat candidates, including Anna Finocchiaro, the former chief whip of the party in the Senate.

Finocchiaro replied today by saying that Renzi’s remarks were “miserable” and the mayor “will never become a statesman,” according to Ansa news agency.

The parties’ decisions in this week’s vote may be key to their chances of influencing the next government, James Walston, a professor at the American University in Rome, said today in a blog posting. “Who they choose will be one of the ’dependence paths’ that will change what follows,” Walston said.

Monti Caretaker

Multi-party talks after the inconclusive elections failed to produce a government and Mario Monti continues to serve as caretaker prime minister. Napolitano, whose seven-year term term expires on May 15, said last week that it will be up to his successor to resolve Italy’s political stalemate.

In past presidential elections two ballots per day were held. To win in the first three rounds a candidate must secure two-thirds of the potential votes. From the fourth round an absolute majority is enough for victory, which means the Democratic Party may be able to push through a candidate on their own should a compromise on the president not emerge sooner.

Former premier Silvio Berlusconi said in a speech on April 13 that his People of Freedom Party will oppose the election of his predecessor Romano Prodi who is favored by some of the Democrat lawmakers close to Renzi. Berlusconi’s party may back former European Union Commissioner Emma Bonino for President, daily Il Messaggero reported today, without citing anyone.

The 5 Star Movement, which captured more than a quarter of the vote in the February elections, said its 163 electors will back the candidate who gets most support in an online primary ending today. Prodi and Bonino were among the 10 most-voted names in the first day of the 5 Star’s primary on April 12.

-- With assistance from Chiara Vasarri. Editors: Andrew Davis, Leon Mangasarian

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