Chaotic start for Italian Senate

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The Independent Online
Italy's new parliament opened yesterday in a familiar atmosphere of chaos, as the centre-left majority, under Romano Prodi and the opposition, led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, immediately fell out over the nomination of speakers for the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Hoping to encourage co- operation with the opposition, Mr Prodi initially offered the centre- right the presidency of the Senate in exchange for support for his candidate in the lower house. But the centre-right decided not to go along with the bargain, believing they could make political capital out of a split with the governing parties.

As a result, Mr Prodi's Olive Tree coalition ended up with both speakerships, with the former Christian Democrat interior minister Nicola Mancino in the Senate, and the former anti-Mafia magistrate Luciano Violante in the Chamber of Deputies.

The row began when Mr Berlusconi's allies proposed the former president Francesco Cossiga as their candidate for the Senate. But Mr Cossiga is a figure closely associated with some of the murkiest scandals of Italy's past, and the centre-left vetoed him.