Prodi’s Presidential Bid Vulnerable in Secret Ballot

Romano Prodi failed to win the Italian presidency in a parliamentary vote today as his wounded party was unable to maintain discipline and resistance from rival forces intensified.

Prodi, the two-time ex-prime minister and former European Commission president, as defections left him more than 100 votes short of a majority in the parliamentary vote in Rome. It was the fourth inconclusive ballot since voting started yesterday and dealt Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the Democratic Party, another defeat in his bid to unlock the impasse.

Prodi’s candidacy “is down the drain,” said Giuseppe Civati, a Democratic Party lawmaker. “With a few renegade votes, we could have tried again, but with this many, it’s over. We will propose a third independent candidate that we can all agree on.”

Italian politics has been reduced to near paralysis since the Feb. 24-25 general election split parliament into three blocs. The Democratic Party, which failed to build consensus with smaller rivals over a government last month, is under pressure to produce a victory in the presidential vote to keep its contingent, the biggest in parliament, together.

“The Italian political scenario looks more and more complicated,” Annalisa Piazza, a fixed-income analyst at Newedge, said in an e-mail before the vote.

So far investors have taken, Italy’s political turmoil in stride. The yield on the country’s 10-year bond fell 4 basis points to 4.22 percent, the lowest close in almost four months.

Voting Resumes

The selection process is set to continue tomorrow, with two ballots a day until a candidate achieves a majority. The 1007 electors are comprised of all national lawmakers and some regional representatives.

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, who serves for seven years, appoints the prime minister and, when stalemates prove intractable, can call snap elections.

Bersani turned to Prodi today in a failed attempt to entice Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, the third-biggest parliamentary group, into lending its support. Bersani’s first nominee, ex-Senate Speaker Franco Marini, was chosen in accord with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, head of the second-largest force.

With both nominees, Bersani was unable to keep his own coalition in line.

The PD “has shown itself to be absolutely untrustworthy and paralyzed the country,” Berlusconi said in a statement before the final vote.

Mussolini Ejected

Protesters gathered outside the Chamber for a second day and the media attention prompted lawmakers into dramatic gestures. Berlusconi pulled his forces from the Chamber in protest over the Prodi nomination. Senator Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian fascist dictator, was removed from the assembly by uniformed ushers after she appeared in a top bearing the slogan, “The Devil Wears Prodi.”

Prodi defeated Berlusconi, 76, in two elections in the last 20 years.

Grillo, an ex-comic and anti-corruption crusader, spurned Prodi’s candidacy and reiterated Five Star’s support for former lawmaker Stefano Rodota. Bersani’s coalition partner, Nichi Vendola, said his supporters would probably back Rodota going forward, news agency Ansa reported.

Prime Minister Mario Monti, who leads a contingent with 70 votes, refused to join the PD and endorsed Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri. While Prodi has the characteristics to be a “good head of state,” his candidacy is too divisive, Monti said before the final vote.

The PD is “more focused on a desperate attempt to safeguard the party’s unity rather than the country’s unity,” Monti said to reporters in Rome.

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