03/16/2013 04:39 pm ET Updated Mar 17, 2013

Laura Boldrini Elected As Leader Of Italy's Lower House

Lawmakers in the Italian Parliament elected new leaders for its lower and upper houses on Saturday, choosing for the lower chamber Laura Boldrini, a journalist and former spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as a frequent blogger for the Huffington Post Italy. Boldrini was elected to Parliament as part of the Left, Ecology and Freedom party and is part of the center-left coalition. She has also previously worked as Italy's spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme. Pietro Grasso, a former anti-mafia prosecutor, was elected as leader of the upper house.

In her inaugural speech, Boldrini said that "this chamber will have to listen to the social suffering of an entire generation," according to the AFP.

AP has more on today's vote:

Normally a routine procedure for a new Parliament, filling the positions required four rounds of voting in both the lower house and the Senate, highlighting Italy's political gridlock following February elections that gave no party a clear victory.


Boldrini won 327 votes to secure a majority in the 630-seat lower house. In the Senate, Grasso beat center-right candidate Renato Schifani in a runoff with 137 votes to Schifani's 117.

No candidate won enough votes in the initial rounds Friday as Parliament convened for the first time since the Feb. 24-25 election. The majority rules were relaxed in the subsequent voting rounds on Saturday.

On Monday, each party and coalition will have to select caucus leaders, the final step before President Giorgio Napolitano can open talks on forming a government, expected next week.

HuffPost Italy's Angela Mauro reported on Boldrini's election today and her speech to the chamber:

"Politics must once again become hope, service, and passion," she says, managing to control her voice despite her emotion. She begins to win over even those those who did not elect her: the 109 members of Grillo's Five Star Movement, for example, who are initially stunned, later give her a standing ovation. And even in the benches of the right wing, where many members are absent, there are those who like her. This is the same Berlusconian right wing which has frequently attacked her in recent hears, with its anti-immigration politics.

Boldrini is winning them over. The chamber rises to its feet when she thanks the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, calling him a "rigorous protector of national unity and constitutional values." But the approval that she stirs up in the tormented setting of Italian politics is not just political. The new president wins full-blown applause when she swears that she will act "in such a way that this institution will be a place for those citizens who need it most," when she turns her "attention to those who have lost hope and security," when she promises to wage a "battle against poverty, not against the poor."



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