Italy's lower house chooses journalist as new speaker

'Grillini' make show of refusing perks, but reveal little interest in drafting key power-sharing deal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 March, 2013, 7:26am


Laura Boldrini, a journalist and former spokeswoman for the UN's refugee agency, was chosen as the speaker of Italy's Chamber of Deputies as Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani seeks to broaden his support.

Boldrini, endorsed yesterday by Bersani's party, won the fourth ballot in the lower house after the rules were eased to allow a candidate to be chosen by a simple majority, rather than two-thirds. Bersani will now turn his attention to the Senate, where members of the Democratic Party proposed Pietro Grasso, the nation's top anti-mafia prosecutor.

The assignment of speaker positions is parliament's first step towards forming a government following last month's general election. By eschewing incumbent lawmakers and proposing political newcomers, Bersani is appealing to members of Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement - a move criticised by Silvio Berlusconi's People of Liberty Party.

The gridlock over naming the speakers illustrates the challenges President Giorgio Napolitano faces as he prepares to begin consultations next week with the main parties to try to form a government.

The February vote left the Democratic Party, or PD, with a majority in the lower house while Berlusconi and Grillo, an ex-comic, each won a blocking minority in the Senate. Vito Crimi, Five Star's head in the Senate, praised Bersani for backing political neophytes for the speakerships, while criticising him for not selecting lawmakers from outside of the PD-SEL alliance, newswire Ansa reported.

Angelino Alfano, general secretary of the People of Liberty, said Bersani's attempt to build consensus will fail.

"With Grasso in the Senate and Boldrini in the Chamber, the country will remain without a government," Alfano said on Twitter. On Friday, the Five Star Movement members unexpectedly respected the rule that male Italian lawmakers must wear ties as they arrived for the first day of the new Italian parliament.

The so-called Grillini, or little crickets, arrived by public transport and, in one case, a bicycle.

During the lunch break, a group of the movement's lawmakers tried to get into the canteen used by parliamentary employees, but were turned back at the door. A Five Star deputy - or "citizen spokesperson" as the Grillini prefer to be called - got into the self-service restaurant in the basement, where he paid €6 (HK$61) for lunch before posting the bill on the internet.

The Grillini have refused the mineral water available in parliament. Their leader in the chamber found a drinking fountain issuing what the M5S terms "public water", but was dismayed to see it had to be drunk with a plastic cup.

Additional reporting by The Guardian