Rome: Italy`s Parliament on Friday failed for a third time to elect a successor to President Giorgio Napolitano, and was voting again, this time with former Premier Romano Prodi being pushed as a candidate.
Most lawmakers cast blank ballots in the third round, when a two-thirds majority was required, reserving their real vote for the fourth round when a simple majority is needed.
That vote began today afternoon, against a backdrop of protest over Prodi, who was twice premier and is also a former European Union commission president. The push for Prodi by the centre-left, which controls the Chamber of Deputies, took shape after a candidate backed by both the left and the right failed to win in two rounds of voting a day earlier, possibly due to centre-left defectors in the secret vote.
Silvio Berlusconi`s centre-right bloc quickly made clear its opposition to Prodi, who twice beat Berlusconi in national elections, and Italian news reports quoted his aides as saying the media mogul was asking his loyalists to boycott the vote.
One right-wing lawmaker, Alessandra Mussolini, sported a protest T-shirt as the fourth round of voting began. "The devil wears Prodi," read the shirt`s back, which the granddaughter of late dictator Benito Mussolini showed off to photographers in the Chamber of Deputies. The slogan riffed on a popular film about the fashion world.
Starting with the afternoon balloting, the number of votes needed for victory dropped from 672 to 504. Still, Prodi`s backers were a few votes short of that number. Whether Prodi wins could depend on whether centrists gravitate to his camp.
The Italian president has no political role, but retains powers to dissolve Parliament, call new elections and tap a candidate to form a new government thus playing a critical role in resolving Italy`s political crisis.
Italy is still without a government two months after inconclusive February elections.
Napolitano`s seven-year term expires next month.