Repubblica.it gives the latest 'diretta' on the search for a President. The left claims that the right has agreed on Giorgio Napolitano, former President of the Chamber of Deputies.
The coverage shows the consociational model for extra-governmental appointments in Italy:
First, both coalitions either announce their favoured candidate or are interpreted to favour a particular candidate; these candidates are close to the coalition's ideal points.
Second, these candidates are then filtered by the press, giving the coalitions a reasonable idea of their chances
Third, closer to the deadline for nomination or appointment, the governing coalition shows a list of around three names to the opposition coalition (the 'compromise list'); these names may have surfaced in earlier press coverage or may have been held in reserve
Fourth, the opposition may either propose a counter-list or accept one of the listed candidates.
If the opposition proposes a counter-list, it's a sign of greater complexity in bargaining; names circulate in a garbage-can process until one candidates pops out of the black box.
The 'ideal point' candidates of the first stage seemed to be Massimo D'Alema (DS) and Gianni Letta (FI) - although the candidacy of the latter was never a serious possibility.
We don't know what the centre-left proposed to the centre-right when they met earlier this afternoon - but we do know that the centre-right's compromise list included Franco Marini (Speaker of the Senate), Giuliano Amato, Lamberto Dini (former PM), and Mario Monti (former EU Commissioner).
Whether he was on the centre-left's compromise list or not, Giorgio Napolitano won out.
Why should the left use this method, rather than using its majority in the presidential Electoral College? There is the weight of precedent - Ciampi was elected by the same consociational wheeler-dealing. More important is the need to eliminate uncertainty over the voting process, where delegates vote in secret.
Absent an agreed candidate of centre-left and centre-right, the centre-left needs to shepherd its majority to vote through its preferred candidate. But we've already seen from the battle for the Presidency of the Senate that some parts of the centre-left like playing games in these nomination fights. As the voting drags on, there is the risk that the centre-right could pitch a deus ex machina who could peel votes from, say, Clemente Mastella's Udeur. This tactic almost worked with Andreotti last week. So the centre-left's decision may be one of enlightened self-interest - even if it shows them to be quite risk-averse.
Of course, it's more complicated than that - Prodi is playing a parallel game in which he has to allocate goodies to his coalition members to keep them happy. The choice of Napolitano is useful. Because Napolitano belongs to the DS, Prodi is able to comfort the DS over the fact that D'Alema didn't make it to the presidency.
Of course, the centre-left had to give up something in exchange for appointing a former Communist to the Presidency - they've cut their already-slender majority in the Senate by one....