The presidency of Italy has a fixed seven-year term. Elections for the next president now can hardly have come as a surprise to the Politburo of the Democratic Party, yet it presses for putting-off the vote today to allow time for reflection. Meanwhile regional offices of the Party are being occupied by infuriated Party members from one end of the Peninsula to the other, and Party cards are burning in front of the Parliament's Lower House.
Yesterday's two votes left Politburo plans in ruins as the Democratic Party Grand Electors to the presidency defected en masse to vote for Rodota', the Five Star Movement's candidate. The Democrats lost their coalition partners and almost half their own MPs - not a loss that could be dismissed as 'dissidents' though, pathetically, some tried.
Notable in yesterday's two votes was the compact, disciplined voting of Berlusconi's People of Liberty and their coalition parties, the Lega Nord particularly. Berlusconi always delivers (though we often disapprove of what). What he delivered yesterday was the demolition of the Left.
This morning's vote is the last requiring a two thirds majority for victory (this is supposed to be a co-operative and conciliatory procedure choosing an institutional office-holder who represents the unity of Italy and guaranteeing the system of governance, but the malevolence and viciousness of the political infighting - a fascination of itself - reveals 'victory' is what is being sought) after which a simple majority will suffice.
The expected candidates for this afternoon's vote are:
Franco Marini (who refuses to stand down despite failing at both ballots yesterday, with his 'supporters' polling blank ballots in vote number 2 after he was over 150 votes short in the first vote);
Massimo D'Alema (former leader of the Communist Party of Italy);
Romano Prodi (for the European Union);
Stefano Rodota' (5 Star Movement and Democratic Party rank and file candidate)
The television pictures of the Chamber of the Lower House are mesmerising. To vote the electors worm their way through polished wooden Anderson shelters, emerging from the curtains at the end looking as if they've been through one of those re-birthing experiences used in alternative therapy procedures. Angels suspect it is affecting their voting behaviour.
Franco Marini has withdrawn
Anna Maria Cancellieri, the Monti government's Home Secretary, has been nominated by Monti in the name of a policy of widest possible agreement on candidates. Berlusconi's coalition is evaluating their response.
Massimo D'Alema hasn't said a word on his candidature.
Romano Prodi is reported to be coming back from Africa tomorrow.
Stefano Rodota' is still the candidate of 5 Stars and Solidarity at least for the 3rd ballot (now counting).