Italian centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani 'to quit'

Pier Luigi Bersani holds his ballot paper during the second day of the presidential elections in Italy's parliament, 19 April Many of Mr Bersani's allies refused to back his choices of candidate

The leader of Italy's centre-left alliance, Pier Luigi Bersani, has promised to step down once parliament elects a new president.

Mr Bersani announced the news to his Democratic Party (PD) after many centre-left MPs twice refused to back his preferred candidate for president.

The centre-left failed to gain an overall majority at February's general election despite coming first.

A caretaker technocratic cabinet has been governing in the meantime.

'Unacceptable'

The political deadlock has compounded concern about the stability of Italy whose economy, the third-biggest in the eurozone, is mired in recession.

President Giorgio Napolitano is set to step down on 15 May at the end of his seven-year term but two parliamentary votes on his successor failed.

On Thursday, former trade unionist and ex-Senate speaker Franco Marini fell well short of the two-thirds majority needed, while on Friday dozens of PD rebels stayed away from the secret ballot, when former Prime Minister Romano Prodi stood as candidate.

"One in four of us was a traitor, for me it is unacceptable," Mr Bersani was quoted as saying by the AGI news agency at a meeting of PD parliamentarians.

One of the PD figures in open revolt against Mr Bersani's choice of Mr Marini was Matteo Renzi, the mayor of Florence, who has challenged him for the leadership in the past.

Italian presidents are elected in a secret ballot open only to members of both houses of parliament and regional representatives.

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