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Italy heads towards 7th round of ballots as talks between main parties intensify

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-01-29 09:07
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Members of Italy's parliament attend a voting session to elect Italy's new president in Rome, Italy, on Jan 28, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

ROME - Italy on Friday went through two consecutive ballots to elect the country's new president, but the stalemate among major parties produced again an inconclusive outcome.

The new president would replace outgoing Sergio Mattarella, 80, whose seven-year term ends on Feb 3.

After a tense day of bitter exchanges between the two major political blocs - the center-right and the center-left, some signals emerged that the main leaders were finally heading toward discussing some common candidatures.

The parliament, in a joint session of both houses plus 58 representatives from the regional councils - all together making the so-called 1,009 "grand electors" - has gathered since Monday and held six rounds of voting so far.

Yet, no candidate got even close to gathering the necessary majority of votes, given the lack of an agreement between the center-left led by the Democratic Party and Five Star Movement and the center-right led by the League party and the Forza Italia party. Neither of the two blocs would have the strength to elect a new head of state alone.

In the fifth round on Friday morning, the center-right sought to force through the candidature of current Senate speaker Elisabetta Casellati, who however received 382 ballots only, far below the necessary threshold of 505 votes.

The center-left abstained because they opposed both the choice of Casellati and the hard way their rivals undertook instead of seeking a compromise.

In the following sixth round, most center-right lawmakers abstained while those in the center-left were expected to cast blank ballots, and a large number of votes (336) were cast in favor of current president Mattarella.

Such a tense day led to a sort of breakthrough, with negotiations within parties and between the two coalitions increasing frantically.

In the evening, the leaders of the country's three largest parties -- right-wing League's Matteo Salvini, and center-left Democratic Party's Enrico Letta and Five Star Movement's Giuseppe Conte - finally met in person.

They reportedly agreed on a list of five names. This would comprise Mario Draghi, current Prime Minister; Elisabetta Belloni, director general of The Department of Information Security (DIS); Pier Ferdinando Casini, former speaker of the lower house of Parliament; Giuliano Amato, vice president of the Constitutional Court; and current president Mattarella.

After the meeting, Letta confirmed the discussion between the two blocs was "ongoing". "We have finally started talking to each other, and we (the center-left) are ready to keep discussing until a solution is found," he said.

Salvini also confirmed the negotiation on common candidatures, adding that talks would be heading "towards a union of intent".

He also said that he was working in order to have "a skilled, female president".

The next vote is scheduled on Saturday morning, and the parliament will keep holding two rounds of ballots a day until an agreement is reached.

In Italy, the president plays largely a ceremonial role, but becomes crucial in case of major political crises, since he or she is tasked with solving major deadlocks between government and parliament.

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