Rome

Amato, D'Alema, Marini being considered for president

Berlusconi 'picked three from Bersani's shortlist'

Amato, D'Alema, Marini being considered for president

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, April 17 - Former centre-left premiers Giuliano Amato and Massimo D'Alema and former centre-left Senate Speaker Franco Marini are being "considered" as future Italian presidents in a possible deal between the top two parties that emerged almost neck-and-neck in the general election 50 days ago. Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who won the House but not the Senate in February, reportedly handed centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, who came a close second, a shortlist of candidates to replace Giorgio Napolitano, sources close to the negotiations said. Three-time premier and media magnate Berlusconi "is considering" the three, the sources said. Two-time premier Amato, who helped draft the EU Constitution in 2002, is a highly respected institutional lawyer who was also a trusted aide of late Socialist premier Bettino Craxi, a close friend of Berlusconi who protected his burgeoning TV empire in the 1980s. Pundits have said he is the most acceptable centre-left candidate for Berlusconi. D'Alema, like Bersani and Napolitano a former Communist, worked closely with Berlusconi on Constitutional reforms in the 1990s although they eventually came to nothing. Marini is from the ex-Christian Democrat wing of Bersani's Democratic Party (PD) and is a former chief of Catholic trade union CISL. Parliament and regional representatives will start voting for the next president Thursday. There will be two votes a day, each taking four or five hours, including the weekend. A two-thirds majority of the 1007 'grand electors' is needed in the first three ballots, after which a simple majority of 504 is enough. The PD and its allies are not far short of that mark but Bersani would like a broader majority to help heal deep political and social divisions amid a worsening economic crisis. Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party has set its face against ex-premier and former European Commission chief Romano Prodi, another touted candidate. Comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), which captured a dramatic protest vote in the elections to hold the balance of power in parliament, is refusing to talk to the PD and Pdl. Investigative journalist Milena Gabanelli topped an online M5S poll for president with war-zone doctor Gino Strada second and Constitutional lawyer Stefano Rodota' third. Gabanelli declined the offer Wednesday and Strada is expected to do the same, leaving Rodota' as a likely candidate. A former Communist, ex-centre-left MP and former head of Italy's privacy watchdog, Rodota' is also in with a chance of garnering cross-party support, pundits say. Napolitano was elected by a simple majority in 2006 but has since been recognised as one of the most successful champions of national unity.

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