Parliament starts voting to elect Italy's next president

April 18, 2013 10:19 pm 

ROME, April 18 — Italy's parliament started voting on Thursday morning to elect a successor to President Giorgio Napolitano, whose seven-year term expires in mid-May.

A total of 1,007 members, including 630 of the lower house, 315 of the Senate, four life senators and 58 representatives of regional governments gathered in Rome for the election.

Votes are cast secretly one at a time and counted one by one in a process that can take four to five hours to complete, which allows two rounds of balloting a day.

A two-third majority of the electors, or 672, is needed in the first three rounds of balloting, after which a simple majority of 504 is enough.

The next president will be the 12th in Italy's history and will replace 87-year-old Napolitano, who was elected on the fourth round of legislative balloting in 2006.

Any Italian citizen who is at least 50 years old on voting day and enjoys civil and political rights can be chosen as a presidential candidate.

President in Italy has a mostly ceremonial role, which also includes real powers such as naming the premier and appointing cabinet ministers on his or her advice as well as dissolving parliament and presiding over the Superior Judicial Council and the Armed Forces.

Napolitano's successor will become the key figure in the effort to resolve the current deadlock in the formation of the new government as president is not allowed to dissolve parliament in the final six months of the mandate.

The Center-left Democratic Party (PD), the most voted party in the Feb. 24-25 national election, on Wednesday reached consensus with its main opponent, the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) which came second, on candidacy of former Senate Speaker and General Secretary of CISL labor union Franco Marini, who is 80 years old.

However, cracks appeared to divide the PD after several members including Matteo Renzi, who was second to Pier Luigi Bersani in a primary vote last year and Nichi Vendola, the head of PD's best ally Left, Ecology and Freedom party (SEL), said they would not back the proposal.

The candidate of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S) which holds the balance in parliament, jurist Stefano Rodota, as well as former center-left premiers Giuliano Amato and Massimo D'Alema and constitutional judge Sergio Mattarella were being considered other possible choices, according to media reports.

Should the next president not be elected in the first three rounds of balloting, outsider candidates, such as that of former center-left premier Romano Prodi, could re-take the field. (PNA/Xinhua)

PDS/SSC

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