May 10, 2006

Napolitano elected Italy’s president: vote count

ROME (Reuters) - Giorgio Napolitano, an ex-communist, has
won enough votes to become Italy's new president, according to
a provisional ballot count still under way on Wednesday in

Lawmakers applauded as the votes for Napolitano, read by
the lower house speaker, passed the 505-vote mark, the minimum
required for the centre left's candidate to be elected head of

Counting continued and the official final result will be
announced later.

Napolitano, an 80-year-old life senator from the Democrats
of the Left, heir to Italy's former communist party, was put
forward by incoming Prime Minister Romano Prodi despite
opposition from most of Silvio Berlusconi's conservative bloc.

The post of president is largely ceremonial in Italy, but
as the head of state names the prime minister, Napolitano's
appointment will pave the way for Prodi to form his government
and take power.

Prodi, who won a narrow victory in general elections last
month, has said he expects to be asked to form his cabinet by
next Tuesday.

Napolitano is a former lower house speaker and interior