Rome

Support swells for Bonino to be Italian president

Italy has never had a woman head of state

Support swells for Bonino to be Italian president

Rome, April 4 - Support appears to be swelling for former European commissioner Emma Bonino to become Italy's first woman president. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano's seven-year term ends on May 15 and parties are wrangling about a successor after February's inconclusive general election. But Bonino, a leading member of the small Radical party that promotes economic and social liberalism and champions human-rights issues, has won support from figures on both the left and right of Italy's political spectrum. "I'd very much like Emma Bonino to be president, I'd feel protected by a woman like her, even though some of her positions are distant from mine," former equal opportunities minister Mara Carfagna, an MP for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, told Sky television. "It would be a great symbol of change". Renato Brunetta, the PdL's House whip, subsequently stressed that Carfagna was expressing her personal opinion, and not the position of her party. Another PdL MP, Michaela Biancofiore, said that "the country is ready for a woman at the Quirinale (presidential palace) and Emma Bonino's name is the most suitable", although other members of the party disagreed. But Bonino, who served as the European commissioner for health and consumer protection from 1995 to 1999 after being nominated by Berlusconi, also won backing from the centre left. "I think that the time has come to elect a woman at the Quirinale," said Alessia Mosca, an MP for the main centre-left Democratic Party. "Our country has lots of female figures who are more than capable of being head of state. I'm thinking of Emma Bonino and of other names that have been mentioned". Bonino gained a good international international reputation for her human rights work while she was European commissioner in a role that also included overseeing the EC's department for overseas aid and civil protection.

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