The election in Rome comes seven weeks after Italy’s general election ended in deadlock. President Giorgio Napolitano is stepping down at the end of his seven-year term, having failed to form a new government.
The most popular candidate on Thursday fell well short of the two-thirds majority needed to take over his job. Former trade unionist and ex-speaker of the Senate, Franco Marini, received 521 votes from parliamentarians and regional representatives. But he fell well short of the 672 votes needed for an early result. Sefano Rodota, the candidate backed by former comic Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement, came in second place with 240 votes. The new president will play a vital role in the effort to put together a viable government in Italy, which has been in political limbo since an inconclusive general election in February. An interim government of technocrats remains in power, while politicians of many parties fail to agree on a ruling coalition.
The president will either have to bring new accord or tell all the parties to go back to the polls. A second vote to find that president was due later on Thursday, followed by two ballots a day until a clear winner emerges. Centre-left leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, has backed the front-runner, Franco Marini, as candidate for president. But his main leadership rival in the party – Matteo Renzi, the mayor of Florence – has said Mr Marini’s presidency would be a “disservice” to Italy. Other candidates proved much less popular in the first vote. Former prime ministers Romano Prodi and Massimo D’Alema received 14 and 12 votes respectively. Emma Bonino, former Commissioner in Brussels and fervent pro-European, had been talked about as the strongest contender to be Italy’s first female president. She received just 13 votes in today’s first round.