Postcard from... Italy


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The Independent Online

You’d think the people running things in Italy were deliberating over whom to vote for in the student union by their behaviour – not choosing the head of state in G8 country, which has failed to swear in a government two months after a general election.

But with the parliamentary stalemate temporarily on the back-burner, MPs and senators began the somewhat arcane process yesterday of electing a new President. The outgoing one, Giorgio Napolitano, finishes his seven-year term next month.

Hoary old faces and relative non-entities with cross-party appeal have come and gone in the betting stakes, as the press tries to predict who will win the required two-thirds majority.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), which holds the balance of power in the Senate, said on Tuesday that the TV presenter and investigative reporter Milena Gabanelli would be its candidate for Italy’s next President after M5S supporters chose her in an online vote.

The M5S and its leader, Beppe Grillo, have railed against journalists but it seems anything is better than a head of state picked from the political establishment. After hearing the news, Ms Gabanelli said she was flattered, but declined the candidacy. With disagreement among the political parties, it’s unclear who will win, though it now looks likely to be someone old and male. To be sure it had a candidate in the running, perhaps the M5S ought to have asked Ms Gabanelli if she wanted the top job before proposing her. But that’s the kind of thing the political establishment would do.