independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Left wins two key Parliament roles

Laura Boldrini, a former spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is the new leader of the Italian lower house (AP)

Italian politicians have elected centre-left leaders for both chambers of Parliament, paving the way for difficult talks to form a new government to get started.

Normally a routine procedure for a new Parliament, filling the positions required four rounds of voting in both the lower house and the Senate, highlighting Italy's political gridlock following February elections that gave no party a clear victory.

Laura Boldrini, a former spokeswoman in Italy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, was chosen to lead the lower house, while anti-mafia prosecutor Piero Grasso was elected Senate leader.

"The country more than ever needs fast and effective answers to the social, economic and political crisis that it is going through," Mr Grasso said.

Ms Boldrini won 327 votes to secure a majority in the 630-seat lower house. In the Senate, Mr Grasso beat centre-right candidate Renato Schifani in a runoff with 137 votes to Mr Schifani's 117.

No candidate won enough votes in the initial rounds Friday as Parliament convened for the first time since the February 24-25 election. The majority rules were relaxed in the subsequent voting rounds on Saturday.

On Monday, each party and coalition will have to select caucus leaders, the final step before President Giorgio Napolitano can open talks on forming a government, expected next week.

Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani's party finished first in the election and has a stable majority in the lower house, but not in the Senate. Mr Bersani has ruled out an alliance with former premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right forces, which finished second.

But Mr Bersani has failed to persuade the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, which captured a quarter of the votes, from co-operating on a leadership strategy. The Five-Star Movement, led by comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo, refuses to align with any major party.

The political stalemate has raised the possibility of new elections in the coming months and bodes badly for Italy's efforts to pass the tough reforms it needs to snuff out its economic crisis.

Press Association

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