Together, the forces of the centrosinistra (center-left) led by Pier Luigi Bersani should command around 495 votes, a handful short of the 504 votes needed to win a simple majority and, accordingly, the Italian presidency.
That former prime minister Romano Prodi, who was supposed to be the candidate of the now-unified centrosinistra has won just 395 votes instead shows how disorganized Bersani’s leadership has become. That Prodi, a widely respected former prime minster, has seen his reputation clipped, is now the least of the left’s worries.
The next ballot, which cannot be held today, will still require a simple majority to win, though it’s unclear who the centrosinistra thinks it can propel into the presidency — if it can’t line up behind Prodi, I don’t know who it could possibly support en masse.
It’s really looking like Bersani should have joined the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, the Five Star Movement) to support legal scholar and former leftist parliamentarian Stefano Rodotà on the first ballot and declared victory instead of attempting a ‘grand coalition’ with Silvio Berlusconi to install former Senato president Franco Marini instead. Prodi’s defeat, however, seems almost more a disaster than the ill-fated Marini plot.
One way out of the impasse might be for Bersani and the Five Star electors to agree a compromise candidate — like Radical Party senator and human rights activist Emma Bonino or former Constitutional Court chief justice Gustavo Zagrebelsky — who placed in the top six in the Five Star’s online vote to determine its presidential candidate. Rodotà emerged as the third-ranked choice — the top two, RAI journalist Milena Gabanelli and physician and ‘Emergency’ NGO founder Gino Strada declined to stand for the presidency.