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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payable Assistant - Central Lond

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Receivable / Accounts Payab...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - West London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on