Since its defeat in the 2001 general election, the Italian centre-left has been unable to come to any agreement on the question of its political leadership, either inside or outside parliament. For various reasons, neither of the defeated candidates—Francesco Rutelli of the Margherita and Piero Fassino, the new secretary of the Democrats of the Left—was able to take on this role. Nor could the centre-left agree on appointing Massimo D'Alema as the alliance's spokesperson in parliament. As a result, the choice regarding the alliance leadership was continually postponed with the excuse: ‘The centre-left has lots of prominent figures. When the time comes we will choose one of them’. For a time, there was popular support in favour of a leadership role for Sergio Cofferati, the former Secretary of the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL). However, the likelihood of this scenario receded with his decision to run as candidate-mayor for Bologna. Subsequently, the return from Brussels of the only centre-left leader to have won a general election, Romano Prodi, seemed to resolve the leadership question. However, Prodi quickly became aware that, while the party oligarchs of the centre-left were prepared to make him leader, they were not willing to yield much power. Prodi therefore suggested the use of electoral primaries to decide the leadership issue. In this way, he hoped to build up sufficient consensus from the Olive Tree/centre-left electorate to allow him to become not only head of the government, but also the real leader of the alliance. To date, however, the problems surrounding the centre-left leadership and the undefined nature of the Olive Tree remain unresolved.