Breakthrough in Italy parliament as speakers chosen

With Italy still in political deadlock following the general election earlier this month, the two parties battling it out to head a new government reached agreement Saturday on the respective positions of speaker for both the lower and upper houses of parliament.

Breakthrough in Italy parliament as speakers chosen
Photo: AFP

In a horse-trading deal that could now pave the way for discussions over who will lead the country, a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), Roberto Fico, was elected speaker of the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies.

In return, Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, a member of the Forza Italia that forms part of the right-wing coalition — and a close friend of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — was voted head of the upper house, the Senate.

The deal follows a period of tense negotiations and allows the sides to now start competing to form a government.

M5S heavyweight Fico, 43, was elected with 422 votes out of 620 and Alberti Casellati, 71, becomes the first female Senate president with 240 votes out of 319.

Alberti Casellati was nominated just before the vote on Saturday morning, following a stalemate in a second round of voting on Friday and a reconciliation meeting between rightwing coalition leaders who had clashed over the issue.

Saturday's breakthrough means the rightwing coalition, which won 37 percent of the vote in the March 4 elections, has the Senate speaker, while M5S takes the position for the lower house.

The agreement is crucial because now consultations between Italian President Sergio Mattarella and those competing to form a new government can begin.

Both Luigi Di Maio's M5S and the right-wing alliance, led by Matteo Salvini, are hoping for a chance to lead Italy.

There was an impasse earlier this week after M5S said it could not vote for the rightwing coalition's choice for Senate speaker, former economy minister in Silvio Berlusconi's last government Paolo Romani, due to his 2014 conviction for embezzlement.

Saturday's agreement also follows a strained few days within the rightwing coalition as cracks widened.

Salvini, the leader of the League which heads the rightwing alliance, enraged former prime minister Berlusconi by backing a candidate without consulting the veteran.

Berlusconi, currently banned from public office, branded Salvini's support for Anna Maria Bernini an “act of hostility” designed to fracture the coalition and push the League closer to M5S.

M5S and the right both say they are ready to work with any party that would be willing to adopt their programme, although the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), whose coalition came third with 23 percent, has refused to form an alliance with either of the two top groups.

READ ALSO: Italy's parliamentary vote deadlocked as most ballots filed blank


Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.