ROME -- The Italian Parliament elected speakers for the two houses of Parliament on Saturday, but failed to find broad agreement among lawmakers in what is shaping up to be an uphill effort to form a stable government after inconclusive elections last month.
Laura Boldrini, the former spokeswoman for the United Nation's refugee agency in Italy who ran with the Left, Ecology and Liberty party, was elected as the speaker of the lower house, with the votes of the center-left coalition that narrowly won the elections.
The coalition also backed Pietro Grasso, Italy's former chief anti-Mafia prosecutor, who was elected speaker of the Senate.
Choosing the two leaders was a necessary preamble to the consultations that President Giorgio Napolitano will hold next week with the leaders of political parties to gauge what sort of government could emerge from a Parliament essentially split among three sizable blocs.
The center-left alliance led by Pier Luigi Bersani has enough seats for a majority in the lower house, but not in the Senate. Through a complicated voting system, it was enough for Mr. Grasso to be elected with 137 votes. But it is far short of the majority of 158 required to govern in the Senate.
Even in electing the speakers, Mr. Bersani was unable to secure the full support the antiestablishment Five Star Movement by the comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, which would give the center-left the votes it needs to govern.
Unless an agreement is found among the political parties, the legislature risks being short-lived, and a return to the polls within months would be the most likely scenario.
Ms. Boldrini is the third woman to hold one of Italy's highest institutional positions. In her first speech, peppered by applause and standing ovations, she called on lawmakers to make the lower house "the house of good politics," and to heed "the request for change that all Italians are asking of us, especially our children."
Italians showed their frustration with the political class in last month's election by staying away from the polls in record numbers -- turnout was 75 percent, compared with 80 percent in 2008. And a quarter of Italians voted for the Five Star Movement, which ran on a platform to overhaul the political system.
Traditional parties also took note of the widespread discontent and put forward first-time candidates, which now account for 60 percent of the new Parliament, including Mr. Grasso and Ms. Boldrini.
Mr. Grasso told the senators that Italy needed "rapid and incisive answers" to the political and economic turmoil it faces.
The former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, cast his vote Saturday afternoon for his party's candidate, who lost against Mr. Grasso, but he expressed his doubts about the longevity of the legislature. "In any case, these elections aren't important," he said.
Mr. Napolitano said Saturday that he would begin meeting with the leaders of the political parties on March 20. The most likely scenario, political analysts agree, is that he will give Mr. Bersani an exploratory mandate to see if he can muster support of a government.
Should all efforts fail, new elections in a few months could be on the horizon. But that option is also fraught with uncertainty.
"New elections would produce more or less the same results," with slight fluctuations among the various blocs, said Gianfranco Pasquino, a professor at the Bologna Center of Johns Hopkins University. "But the problems in the Senate would remain, because if you don't change the electoral law it is a roulette."
Correction: March 17, 2013, Sunday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the given name of the new speaker of the Italian Senate. He is Pietro Grasso, not Piero.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.