Italy’s incoming government is locked in a dispute with the centre-right opposition over who should be the country’s next President. Giorgio Napolitano, 80, has been put forward as a new candidate by Romano Prodi’s centre-left coalition, after former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi rejected their original choice.
Parliament and regional representatives will start voting on a successor to President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi this afternoon. The election is likely to take at least three days. The original candidate, Massimo D’Alema, from the centre-left coalition’s main party, would be unacceptable, claimed Berlusconi, who went on to say: “I think the fact that they have suggested a left-leaning politician as a candidate for President is an indecent proposal, almost like a red alert for the system of democracy.” Berlusconi’s choice for the post is his close aide Gianni Letta. Signalling opposition from the Catholic Church, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said D’Alema’s candidature raised “increasingly evident doubts”. In a last minute attempt to break the deadlock, the two sides held and impromptu meeting on Sunday evening. A two-thirds majority is needed to elect a President in the first three rounds of voting, and a simple majority after that. As the embodiment of the nation, the President is meant to be a widely respected figure above party politics.