April 18 - Italy's parliament has failed to elect a new state president in its first round of voting. As Sonia Legg reports, the first important move towards resolving the country's political stalemate could take days.
A crucial step in a long process has begun. Italy's parliament is voting for a new President. Without one the country can't move forward. It's now two months since elections failed to produce a new leader. James Walston is a Professor of Political Sciences at Rome's American University. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JAMES WALSTON, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCES AT THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF ROME, SAYING: 'When there is a new president then that president will be able to negotiate from a position of strength. He or she will able to say. "If you don't get a government then I will dissolve parliament." But for the same reasons that it's difficult to get a president and it has already been impossible so far to find a government, those underlying problems are not going to be solved by electing a president.' There's plenty of frustration about the complicated political system in Italy. The first round of voting proved inconclusive - further rounds could last into the weekend. It's all adding to investors concerns, says Jeff Munroe Head of Global Equities at Newton (SOUNDBITE) (English) JEFF MUNROE, HEAD OF GLOBAL EQUITIES, NEWTON, SAYING: "Deadlocks in politics don't necessarily mean bad things. it does seem however that Italy does need to makE some substantial decisions about its public finances and a good government does help to make those decisions." Former Senate Speaker Franco Marini is the favoured candidate Officially, the 80-year-old has the support of Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left alliance and Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right party. But he has little public backing and lost his seat in the election. Many of Bersani's own Democratic party also suspect a deal has been made with Bersluconi. Giuseppe Civati is one of them. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) DEMOCRATIC PARTY PARLIAMENTARIAN GIUSEPPE CIVATI SAYING: "We can't speak of a government of change and then construct a political reality that chooses the right pieces in order for Berlusconi to agree with it." The Presidential position is - in fact - largely ceremonial. But the few functions it does have are vital. The outgoing President Giorgio Napolitano was responsible for creating the last technocrat government under Mario Monti. That move in 2011 calmed the markets - if a new President isn't selected soon there are fears the calm could wear off.