Romano Prodi, who is set to become the next Italian Prime Minister, faces the first test of his ability to govern when parliament reopens today. The upper and lower houses will vote for their respective speakers. Prodi’s leftist ‘Union’ coalition enjoys a healthy majority in the Chamber of Deputies and its choice for speaker, Fausto Bertinotto of the Communist Refoundation party, is expected to be elected easily.
But it is thought the vote in the Senate will be closer. The centre-left coalition has just a two seat majority. But there are seven life senators and an independent who can vote either way. Prodi has put forward moderate Franco Marini against the challenge of Giulio Andreotti, the candidate of Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right bloc. The 87-year-old former prime minister has admirers on both sides of the upper house. Analysts say if Prodi fails to win the ballot in the Senate it will signal his inability to guarantee political stability.