Rome

First session for president election possible April 18

No agreement in sight for Napolitano successor

First session for president election possible April 18

Rome, April 3 - The first session to elect a new Italian president will be possible on April 18, the House said Wednesday. Giorgio Napolitano's seven-year term ends on May 15 and parties are wrangling about a successor, with no agreement in sight. Napolitano has been struggling to break Italy's post-election stalemate. The three leading forces - Pier Luigi Bersani's Democratic Party (PD), Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party and Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement - are sticking insisted to mutually incompatible stances. Some observers think new elections are on the horizon but Napolitano cannot dissolve parliament because of Constitutional curbs on a president's powers in the last six months of his term. So that job will fall to Napolitano's successor. Among the names touted have been ex-premiers Romano Prodi and Giuliano Amato but both are from the centre left and would be unacceptable to Berlusconi who has already accused the PD of trying to "occupy" top institutional posts after electing parliament's two Speakers. Pundits say ex-Senate Speaker Franco Marino, a more centrist centre-left figure, would be more acceptable to Berlusconi, who has floated long-time advisor and institutional fixer Gianni Letta. Both Letta and Berlusconi himself, whose candidacy has been advanced by the PdL, are unacceptable to the PD. M5S has opened an online poll to suggest candidates and has already suggested humanitarian war-zone doctor Gino Strada. Voting for the president will be by the 945 members of the two houses of parliament plus regional representatives, making a total of 1007. A two-thirds majority is needed for the first three votes, and then a simple majority. Presidents, who represent national unity and have the power to help governments form and vet laws, are usually expected to be voted by a broad majority.

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