The European Parliament has held a second round of voting with two Italian candidates coming to the fore: Italian conservative Antonio Tajani and Gianni Pittella of Martin Schulz's S&D. A third round is to be held.
In the second round of voting for a new president of the 751-seat chamber, Antonio Tajani of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) won 287 votes, an increase of 13 votes from his tally in the first round. Gianni Pittella of the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group saw his vote rise by 17 to 200 in the second round. A third vote is to be held Tuesday afternoon. There were 691 valid votes cast in the second ballot out of a total of 725.
In the first round, Italian conservative Tajani won 274 of the 683 valid votes cast. The 63-year-old is a close ally of Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
"We need to be very balanced, we need to defend the rights of Europe but we also have to think that in the future the UK will be an important partner for us," Tajini said.
Tajani's strong showing has been due to the alliance announced the day of the vote between Tajini's centre-right European People's Party (EPP) Christian Democrat group and the ALDE liberals. ALDE leader, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, withdrew from Tuesday's election, allowing a clear run for Tajini.
S&D broke ranks
Outgoing president Martin Schulz's S&D group also put forward an Italian candidate, Gianni Pittella, who received 183 of the votes cast in Tuesday's first round. By putting forward its own candidate for president to replace Schulz, the S&D broke a grand coalition with the EPP and the liberals. The S&D had previously agreed to support an EPP candidate.
The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group finished third in the first round. Headed by the UK's Conservatives the ECR includes Poland's right-wing PiS ruling party. The ECR's votes could take Tajani close to a majority. In the second round, ECR candidate Helga Stevens came third but her share of the vote fell by 11 to 66.
Jean Lambert of the Greens polled 51 votes, Laurentiu Rebega of the ENF, 45 and Eleonora Forenza, also Italian, polled 42 votes.
The European Parliament is part of a triumvirate with the executive European Commission and the European Council of member states that approves legislation in the European Union.
jm/se (Reuters, AP)