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Napolitano elected Italy’s president to unprecedented 2nd term

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Also lobbying the president was Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, whose lawmakers cast blank ballots Saturday morning in a stalling tactic as he struggled to find a candidate supported by a wide consensus. The Democratic Party has been imploding under a leadership crisis since disappointing results in parliamentary elections. Bersani’s forces control the Chamber of Deputies, but not the Senate. Tapped by Napolitano to see if he could pull together a government before the presidential election, Bersani failed, after refusing an offer by Berlusconi to join their bitterly opposed forces in a reform-focused coalition.

Bersani’s hours as party leader were numbered after the latest humiliation from his own ranks, when party defectors Friday in the secret balloting for president sabotaged his high-profile choice of candidate, former Premier Romano Prodi, an economist who is widely respected at home and abroad.

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A top party official, Enrico Letta, confirmed that Bersani and the rest of Democratic Party leadership, including himself, had resigned after the vote for Napolitano.

"Thank you, Napolitano," Bersani said, although he noted that the ‘‘political problem" plaguing the country still remains.

Italy is living through political "chaos squared," political science professor James Walston, of American University of Rome, wrote in his blog.

Meanwhile, rallying to the side of citizens feeling neglected by their political class were leaders of Italy’s politically influential Catholic church.

"Too many people are living in misery," Naples Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe said in an appeal for action that he wrote for a local diocesan weekly. "There are people who are dying because of poverty imposed on them," the cardinal of that southern city said, urging politicians to "find rapid solutions. Do so quickly."

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