Silvio Berlusconis announcement that he will officially hand in his resignation as Italys prime minister on Tuesday 2 May, leaves the way open for the possible nomination of a new head of government before the end of the presidency of Carlo Azelgio Ciampi on 13 May.

Romano Prodi, whose centre-left coalition won the general elections in April by a paper-thin majority, says that he is ready with his government. However it is up to Ciampi to decide whether he wants to go ahead with the speedy installation of a new government in the 10 days before the end of his term of office or whether he wants to leave this to his successor, who will be elected by parliament in mid May.

Berlusconi finally conceded defeat as the two houses of Italys parliament elected presidents from the centre-left LUnione coalition, led by Prodi.

After 24 hours of political posturing and tactics, Franco Marini was finally elected by 165-156 to head the senate after four ballots, getting a wider majority than initially expected. And in the chamber of deputies, Fausto Bertinotti, the left-wing leader of the Rifondazione Comunista party, which is part of the Prodi-led coalition, was elected with 337 votes out of 630.

Berlusconi refused to concede defeat in the weeks following the early April election in the hopes that his centre-right candidate might win the presidency of the senate, where the Prodi-led coalition has a majority of only a couple of votes.

With the leadership of the two houses of parliament in the hands of the centre left, Berlusconis centre-right coalition will now be working to get one of its candidates elected as president of the republic.