Bersani signals openness to woman as Italian president

'Gender equality' must be weighed says center-left leader

Bersani signals openness to woman as Italian president

Rome, April 9 - The head of Italy's Democratic Party (PD), Pier Luigi Bersani, on Tuesday hinted that he was open to the possibility of a woman being elected to succeed outgoing President Giorgio Napolitano. In comments made to the PD caucus in the Lower House of parliament - where the PD obtained a majority following February's inconclusive national elections - Bersani said that in choosing a new president for the country, it was important to "keep gender equality in mind". Negotiations between the main parties over a list of names to replace Napolitano, whose seven-year term ends in May, have been deadlocked as the two largest parties in parliament - Bersani's PD and the People of Freedom (PdL) party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi - fail to reach an agreement on nominees. In Italy, the president - a mostly ceremonial position, but which has key constitutional powers, including appointing governments and calling elections - is elected by parliament. Among the names making the rounds as potential replacements for Napolitano are those of former PD leader and ex-premier Romano Prodi, as well as former European commissioner Emma Bonino. A leading member of the small Radical party that promotes economic and social liberalism and champions human-rights issues, Bonino has won support from figures on both the left and right of Italy's political spectrum. She gained a good international reputation for her human rights work while she was European commissioner for health and consumer protection from 1995 to 1999, a role that also included overseeing the EC's department for overseas aid and civil protection.

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