On Thursday, the Italian Parliament will start voting to elect the new President of the Republic, the man expected to be finally able to appoint a Government.
The two issues are strictly connected, as is becoming more and more clear in the last days before the election.
There are indeed two possibilities.
Berlusconi’s party and the Democratic Party could vote a common candidate, which could lead to a new Government supported by a left-right grand coalition. Mr Berlusconi made clear many times that the election of a bipartisan President is a prerequisite for his support to any Government shared with the left. According to malignant critics, this is due to the fact that the President can grand a pardon, and he is in any case the constitutional chief of the Italian Judiciary: he could, therefore, protect Mr Berlusconi from a last wave of trials which look more serious than usual.
But today the Five Stars Movement, the first choice of the Democratic Party for a Government alliance, also chose its presidential candidates by an Internet vote. In a sudden U-turn, the Movement leaders Mr Beppe Grillo and Mr Gianroberto Casaleggio hinted at the possibility of supporting a Government of the Democratic Party if the latter votes for a presidential candidate of the Movement. The second candidate on the Movement slate, Mr Stefano Rodotà, would be absolutely palatable for the leftist coalition. The first candidate, investigative journalist Milena Gabanelli, would be much more difficult to stomach for the conservative Democratic Party, but it looks unlikely that Mrs Gabanelli will actually accept the nomination.