The Italian Senate is still trying to elect its president. To preside over the Senate a senator must win an absolute majority of the votes. The center left currently has a majority of one among elected senators and the support of one elected independent (elected in South America of course but that is another story). The two living former presidents of the Republic are also senators and there are Senators appointed for their lifetime as a huge honor (like being in the house of lords) which has suddenly become a real political factor.
The naive or very young might imagine that the center left will just elect their candidate Franco Marini (a former trade union leader and minister of labor whose most brilliant contribution to the national discussion occurs whenever he keeps his mouth shut). The center right is supporting Giulio Andreotti, 7 times prime minister, now a senator for life, who has served the Republic every parliament since it was founded and who, according to an official court verdict and finding of fact, stopped serving the mafia in 1980 and therefore does not belong in jail.
There is also a senator Giulio Marini. who has not been mentioned as a compromise candidate, but who played a very key role in the second second ballot for president of the Senate.
La Repubblica reports
La differenza tra Franco e Francesco ha tolto per soli tre voti a Franco Marini la presidenza del Senato. Su tre delle 162 schede che gli erano state attribuite nella seconda votazione, infatti, c'era scritto Francesco. Ma Marini si chiama Franco, anche all'anagrafe. Pertanto la seconda votazione è stata annullata dal presidente provvisorio Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, e ripetuta, tra le contestazioni, alle 22. Ma anche dopo mezzanotte, al termine della seconda votazione 'bis', il responso per il candidato del centrosinistra è stato negativo: ha ottenuto infatti 161 voti, dal momento che una scheda, sulla quale c'era scritto solo Marini, non poteva essere considerata valida, essendoci un altro senatore con lo stesso cognome, Giulio Marini, di Forza Italia.
Su un'altra era scritto, per l'ennesima volta, Francesco Marini.
The difference between "Franco" and "Francesco" took from Franco Marini the presidency of the senate for only three votes. "Francesco", in fact, was written on three of the 162 ballots which were [unofficially] attributed to him in the second vote. But Marini's legal name is Franco. Therefore the second vote was annulled by the provisory president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and repeated, with objections, at 10 PM.
But also after midnight, at the end of vote 2b, the response for the candidate of the center left was negative. He obtained 161 votes, since one ballot, on which only "Marini" was written, could not be considered valid there being another senator with the same last name, Giulio Marini of Forza Italia.
Francesco Marini was written for the n'th time on another.
The extremely naive and electors of Palm beach county Florida, might be forgiven for imagining that Italian Senators can not manage the mechanics of voting. My immediate reaction was as follows "Why does Clemente Mastella want the world to laugh at the Italian Senate?"
I have neither proof nor doubt that the apparent mistakes were made by the senators for the UDEur lead by Clemente Mastella. This is a party of people elected with the center right in 1996 which switched sides and elected Massimo D'Alema prime minister when the still comunists withdrew support and made the Prodi goverment fall. Sadly the center left did not cut them adrift in 2001 and lost anyway. I thought at the time that at least the election might have served for sending Mastella back to Berlusconi or, even better, causing the UDEur to win no seats, which has been the end of many Italian parties. Thus the UDEur is still around, still part of the center left (at least for now) and with a big big delegation of three a necessary component of the center left majority in the senate. The absurd errors on ballots serve to keep the voting open and to remind people of how narrow the majority is.
I think there is a strategic reason to cast incorrectly marked ballots as opposed to blank ballots. Life Senators often cast blank ballots out of respect for democracy. No one can imagine that the senators who wrote "Francesco Marini" or "Marini" are burdened by such weaknesses. They are saying that they have not yet been paid the price for their votes. They may be hinting that they are prepared to sell to the highest bidder.
Of course I don't really know that the three spelling impaired senotors are the three UDEur senators. As I said I have neither evidence nor doubt.
Elisabetta Addis says that from now on she will refer to one of them as Inclemente Mastella.
I guess that tommorrow Clemintine Mastella will vote for Franco Andreotti.