Italy’s Left Rebels Against Leader in Presidential Vote

Pier Luigi Bersani’s lawmakers vote down his nominee for president.

Secretary of the Italian Partito Democratico Pier Luigi Bersani speaks in Turin, Piedmont, August 28, 2010
Secretary of the Italian Partito Democratico Pier Luigi Bersani speaks in Turin, Piedmont, August 28, 2010 (Francesca Minonne)

Lawmakers from Italy’s Democratic Party have voted down their leader’s nominee for president.

Former Senate speaker Franco Marini fell short of the required two-thirds majority in a first voting round on Thursday.

In the second round, he won no votes at all when both left- and right-wing members cast blank ballots.

Embarrassment

The failed election is an embarrassment for the left’s leader and prime ministerial candidate, Pier Luigi Bersani, who has been struggling to form a government since winning a majority for his party in the lower chamber of parliament but not in the Senate, where former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s conservatives hold nearly as many seats.

Further complicating the presidential election is the intransigence of the Five Star Movement, an upstart anti-establishment party that won almost a sixth of the Senate seats in February’s election. Some of Bersani’s members joined the Five Stars in voting for the leftist Stefano Rodotà.

Deals

Bersani split his party by doing a deal with Berlusconi to nominate Marini, although he has ruled out forming a grand coalition with the right.

Matteo Renzi, the popular mayor of Florence who challenged Bersani for the party leadership last year, said ahead of the parliamentary vote, “Voting for Franco Marini today would be to do a disservice to the country.” He described the octogenarian former Christian Democrat as a “candidate from the last century” who lacked international stature.

Deadlock

The Italian president is mostly a figurehead but does hav the power to dissolve parliament and call elections. That may be the only way to break the political deadlock.

If Bersani fails to get a president elected and form a government, his party might replace him with Renzi. 28 percent of Italians would support him for the prime ministership, an SWG survey found. Only 14 percent back Bersani.

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