Italy's center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani has told his party he plans to step down after failing to push through his preferred presidential candidate. A further vote is scheduled for Italy’s parliament on Saturday.
Bersani had come under increasing pressure from his own Democratic Party (PD) in recent weeks and said he would step down as leader once a new president had been elected. On Friday, a rebellion within Bersani's center-left coalition helped prevent his preferred presidential candidate, Romano Prodi, win parliamentary approval. Bersani had strongly preferred the former prime minister, but couldn't hold together the votes.
"He accepted his responsibility after the disgrace of what happened," said Paolo Gentiloni, a senior parliamentary deputy from Bersani's PD.
Friday's vote was the fourth in a complex process that involves national and regional lawmakers. Prodi fell well short of the absolute majority of 504 that would have been needed for him to win the presidency.
Although Prodi had been endorsed by all center-left parties in the fragile coalition put together by Bersani, and should have been able to count on almost 500 votes from them, the ex-premier only secured 395. Some 100 center-left politicians appeared to have refused orders from their own parties to vote for Prodi. Because voting takes place in secret, politicians are not obliged to toe the party line.
"It is clear that we are going nowhere with these numbers," the PD's Francesco Boccia told the broadcaster SkyTG24.
Another leading PD figure, Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, said the vote had effectively ended the former prime minister's candidacy. The 73-year-old Prodi currently serves as the UN envoy for the Sahel region of Africa.
Fifth and sixth rounds of voting, as Italy seeks a successor to Giorgio Napolitano, are scheduled for Saturday. Usually a more symbolic position as head of state, the role of Italian president is particularly significant during times of political uncertainty; one presidential task is helping to broker talks to form a coalition government. Almost two months after a general election, Italy does not have a functioning alliance. Bersani's bloc won the most votes in February, but not enough to rule on its own.
Fresh elections are considered one likely solution. Those can only be called by a president.
mkg/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)