Italy's new parliament fails to agree on speakers amid political impasse

2013-03-15 16:12:36 GMT2013-03-16 00:12:36(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

ROME, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Italy's new parliament held its first session on Friday amid political standstill as the three biggest parties failed to agree on speakers of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate.

The first round of voting was completed fruitlessly in both the houses, with the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S), which holds the power of balance, supporting its candidates for speakers, two of the highest offices of state.

Blocs of lawmakers from other parties were casting empty ballots as part of the strategy to sound out each other's intentions.

Other polls were expected late on Friday, and may continue on Saturday to reach the agreement that will provide the first test of the parties' ability to work together to form a government.

The impasse resulted from last month election's inconclusive result, which gave the center-left coalition led by the Democratic Party's (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani a majority in the Chamber of Deputies but not a working one in the equally powerful Senate.

The PD has been trying to reach a deal with the M5S, which gained 163 over 945 seats in parliament. But the movement's leader Beppe Grillo, a comedian turned activist, has ruled out voting confidence in a Bersani-led government, saying it was ready to form an executive on its own.

Grillo's internet-based movement has attracted more than 8 million votes riding a wave of public repugnance over the scandal-hit political world, and aims at cutting public funding in parties that he blames for dragging Italy into crisis.

The entrance of Grillo's lawmakers in parliament made it the youngest in Italy's history, with proportion of women reaching some 31 percent compared to previous 20 percent. Overall, average age of 48 was lower than that of counterparts in other countries including Germany, Britain and the U.S.

After appointing the speakers, the parliament will pave the way for President Giorgio Napolitano to begin formal talks to give a mandate to form a government. Should the attempt fail, an early return to vote was the likely alternative, local observers said.

Political uncertainty in the troubled third largest economy of Europe has created uncertainty within the international community, which hoped that Italy was able to form a government capable of lifting its recession-hit economy.

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