Italy's parliament failed to elect a new state president in its first vote on Thursday, April 18 with deep splits in the center left torpedoing a quick victory for its official candidate Franco Marini, Reuters reported.
Marini, a former Senate speaker, won 521 votes, well below the required two-thirds majority of 672 of the 1,007 electors, comprising members of both houses of parliament and regional representatives. A second ballot will be held later on Thursday and two votes a day will continue through the weekend if necessary.
Marini's clear failure, in a vote which is key to filling a government vacuum since the deadlocked general election in February, was a slap in the face for center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani. He badly split his party by nominating Marini in a deal with center-right boss Silvio Berlusconi.
Many rebellious center-left parliamentarians voted in the secret ballot for academic Stefano Rodota, candidate of the populist 5-Star Movement of former comic Beppe Grillo. Rodota won more than 240 votes and there were also more than 100 blank or spoilt ballots.
After three rounds of voting, only an absolute majority is required but the chances for Marini, 80, may decline as time passes, wrecking Bersani's deal with Berlusconi which is aimed at helping him form a minority government.
Bersani has repeatedly refused to agree to Berlusconi's demands that they form a broad coalition government together. But it is widely believed he wants to parley an agreement on the presidency with center-right willingness to support a minority center-left government.