Giovedì, 18 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Centre left choose Prodi as presidential candidate

English
© ANSA

Rome, April 19 - Italy's centre left tried to bury
its internal rifts Friday when the Democratic Party (PD) chose
former European Commission president and twice Italian premier
Romano Prodi to be its new presidential candidate.
But the move has infuriated Silvio Berlusconi's
centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party.
The head of state represents national unity and usually a
figure capable of winning broad cross-party party support is
sought for the role.
However, Prodi, a 73-year-old former economics professor,
is seen as the nemesis of three-time premier Berlusconi after
defeating him at the helm of centre-left alliances in elections
in 1996 and 2006.
"Prodi is an option that divides us. This is the opposite of
what Italy needs," said PdL Senator Maurizio Gasparri.
In the first ballot to elect the new head of state on
Thursday the PdL backed former Senate Speaker Franco Marini, who
had been proposed by the PD.
But Marini failed to prevail after an internal PD revolt so
centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani dropped him on Friday and
proposed Prodi.
Many saw 80-year-old Marini, a member of the Catholic wing
of the party, as a representative of Italy's discredited old
political class. Others in the party were unhappy at the
"method" used to select Marini.
Bersani consulted Berlusconi before proposing him and some
suggested there had been a "shady deal" which saw the
ex-premier's People of Freedom (PdL) party backing Marini.
"The PD reached an agreement with us over Marini that it
could not honour, or did not want to honour," said Fabrizio
Cicchitto, the PdL's former House whip.
"It's clear that by choosing Prodi they've caused a rift".
The PD and the PdL both told their lawmakers and
representatives of regional governments to cast blank papers in
the two inconclusive votes in the two ballots that followed
Marini's failure.
Bersani will be hoping Prodi will be elected President
Giorgio Napolitano's successor in the fourth ballot later on
Friday, when a simple majority of 504 is needed rather than
two-thirds of the 1,007 electors.
The decision to drop Marini is seen as a major victory for
the PD's rising star, Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, whose
loyalists led the revolt.
Renzi, a 38-year-old who has been compared to Tony Blair
and came second to Bersani in December's premier-candidate
primaries, has also blasted the party leader for his handling of
Italy's political impasse after the centre left came first in
February's election but failed to win a working majority in the
Senate
Bersani, meanwhile, called on the PD to rediscover its
unity after opting for Prodi.
"Now we have to regain the profile, unity and autonomy of
our party and our coalition," Bersani told a meeting of the PD
Upper and Lower House lawmakers and regional representatives who
are taking part in the election of the next head of state.
"Prodi gives value to our coalition and he speaks to our
nation," said Bersani.
The decision to bank on Prodi may not suffice to heal the
party's internal rifts though as his bid could also be scuppered
by PD members not voting for him too.
Several lawmakers close to Marini are said to be upset at
him being dropped, ANSA sources said.
A number of parliamentarians loyal to former premier
Massimo D'Alema are irked too.
They are said to be unhappy that Bersani only presented
Prodi to the party as a possible alternative to Marini rather
than giving a shortlist of options, including D'Alema.
On a positive note for Bersani, Puglia Governor Nichi
Vendola, the leader of the leftwing SEL that was allied with the
PD in February's inconclusive general election, has reportedly
said he is willing to back Prodi.
In the first ballot, SEL voted for Constitutional lawyer
Stefano Rodota', the candidate of the anti-establishment 5-Star
Movement.
The M5S has said it will continue voting for Rodota', who
was selected following an online vote after making a shortlist
that also included former European Commission president Prodi.
This led to speculation that the movement led by
comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo might drop their man and
adopt Prodi as their candidate.
But the M5S lawmakers voted to stick with Rodota' at a
meeting on Friday.
Grillo also emphatically ruled out the possibility of M5S
lawmakers switching support to Prodi.
"No one in the M5S has ever dreamed of voting for Prodi and
they won't dream of it in the future either," Grillo told a
rally. "Our president is Rodota'".
Rodota' is an ex-Communist who was the inaugural chairman of
the first heir to Italy's once-strong Communist Party in 1990.
Rodota', also a former head of the national privacy
watchdog, is seen as more divisive than Prodi for the PD, which
is trying to heal the deep rifts exposed by the failure of
Marini.
The PdL is considering adopting Interior Minister Anna Maria
Cancellieri as its candidate after speaking to outgoing Premier
Mario Monti's Civic Choice party.
Cancellieri is one of the unelected technocrats that have
served in Monti's emergency administration since November 2011.
The next president will have to decide whether to try to
form a government from the hung parliament that emerged from
February's general election or call a snap vote.

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