Berlusconi bows out but Prodi's problems go on

Silvio Berlusconi has finally agreed to hand in his resignation, allowing a new Italian government to take over. He announced at the weekend that he will call on President Ciampi tomorrow.

Mr Berlusconi had little choice but to resign after new speakers were elected for Italy's two houses of parliament on Saturday.

But it is still unclear when Romano Prodi, the victorious leader of the centre-left coalition in the general election held three weeks ago, will be able to take over. Yesterday he told reporters outside his headquarters in central Rome, "Between today and tomorrow I will see all party leaders.

"We are pushing ahead with the government line-up so that we can be ready when the president sees fit to give me the mandate."

Mr Prodi's problem is no longer Berlusconi's intransigence but the uncertainty clouding the institution of the president. Mr Ciampi, 85, reaches the end of his seven-year term on 18 May. He has said numerous times that he does not want a second term, and if he sticks to that decision a new head of state must be elected by 13 May by the two houses of parliament sitting together. Already the opposing coalitions are canvassing fiercely for their preferred candidates.

It is still possible that Mr Ciampi may bow to pressure and swear Mr Prodi in as prime minister during the next few days, as is clearly Prodi's desire. But Ciampi said immediately after the election that he would leave that task to his successor, and it is not yet clear whether he will change his mind. If he refuses to budge, Italy will remain in a political vacuum until after the middle of May.

With the election of veteran union leader Franco Marini as president (speaker) of the Senate, and unreconstructed communist Fausto Bertinotti as his counterpart in the Chamber of Deputies, Prodi has now cleared the most important hurdles in the way of forming a government.

But the election of Mr Marini, in particular, did not augur well for the durability of his administration.

Thanks to the new electoral system brought in at the last minute by Berlusconi's government, the centre-left obtained the thinnest possible majority in the Senate.

It was thus considered vital for his side to secure a convincing win in the battle to get their candidate elected speaker. But Friday, the first day of the new parliament, produced the unedifying spectacle of the centre-left trying three times to get their man elected having mustered all the halt, lame, sick and very old senators to pack the lobby, and failing three times.

In the final two votes the winning target was 163 votes but both times Mr Marini fell just short, thanks to ballots written not "Franco Marini" but "Francesco Marini." The opposition contested the ballots and the temporary speaker twice annulled the vote.

The supposition of commentators was that the ballots in question were deliberately written with an incorrect name by semi-detached members of the centre-left coalition, interested in causing mischief and delays even before the government has taken office. The marathon sitting of the Senate lasted until after 1am on Saturday morning without reaching a conclusion.

Mr Marini was finally elected on Saturday, when a simple majority was sufficient, but Friday's bizarre proceedings left commentators doubting whether Mr Prodi would be able to enforce coalition discipline in the Senate sufficiently to get legislation passed and win votes of confidence.

Mr Berlusconi and his coalition will not give them relief. "Berlusconi will pursue them mercilessly, not only in parliament but also in the country," promised Gianfranco Rotondi, a Berlusconi ally, yesterday.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor