Italian MPs re-elect Napolitano
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Saturday (20 April) was re-elected by the parliament for another seven-year term, paving the way for a government coalition deal.
The 87-year old politician, a respected mediator, secured the needed 504 votes in the parliament, becoming the first Italian president to get a second mandate. Napolitano was former member of the Communist Party and later a Social-Democrat.
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The political groups had previously tried five times to elect other candidates, including former EU commission president Romano Prodi.
The country's parliament has been deadlocked since February, when inconclusive elections failed to produce a clear majority in both chambers able to form a government.
The election of the president is seen as a first step towards a compromise between the left and the right.
"I strongly hope that in the next few weeks, starting in the next few days, all sides will fulfil their duties, with the aim of strengthening the institutions of the state," Napolitano said.
Meanwhile, supporters of Beppe Grillo, the comedian-turned-politician calling for direct democracy and refusing to take part in a coalition government, protested against Napolitano's re-election. Grillo said the re-election was nothing less than a "coup d'etat."
The failed attempts to elect a president also led to the resignation of centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who divided his party with a candidate endorsed by his arch-rival, Silvio Berlusconi.
Napolitano has failed to broker a deal for a coalition government since February when elections took place, but he has now the power to dissolve parliament if no deal is found - an option he did not have as an outgoing president.
"It's clear that within the week an agreement on a government will be reached," said Rocco Buttiglione, a former Berlusconi ally who has now joined the party led by outgoing prime minister, Mario Monti. "Napolitano is very strong right now and the parties are rather impotent," he noted.