The two speakers elected to the upper and lower houses of the Italian parliament are colourful characters and political heavyweights in their own right.
Franco Marini is a former head of a Roman Catholic trade union who is rarely seen in public without a pipe. The 73-year-old trained as a lawyer but has devoted his life to politics, switching between centre-left parties before joining Margherita in 2002. It is now the second biggest party in Prodi’s coalition. The man presiding over the lower house is another former trade unionist, Fausto Bertinotti. He is often mocked by the right as a ‘champagne socialist’ for his taste in chic suits and elegant women. ‘Fausto the Red’ as some call him, leads the Communist Refoundation, which broke off from the former communists in 1991 because it refused to accept the end of communism. More recently he has softened his rhetoric, witdrawing his support for violent anti-globalisation campaigners and anti-US guerrillas in Iraq.