Italy's new centre-left leader Bersani faces test: press

Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani speaks as he celebrates his victory on stage in downtown Rome December 2, 2012. REUTERS/ Stringer

ROME: Democratic Party chief Pier Luigi Bersani won primaries on Sunday to lead Italy's centre-left but now faces the challenge of uniting different currents in his party, Italian media reported on Monday.

"A new life is beginning for the leader of the Democratic Party. The most difficult one," the centre-left La Repubblica daily said.

"The primaries have created a new party, which has already changed both internally and in terms of its image externally," it said.

Bersani won out against his more centrist rival, Florence mayor Matteo Renzi, making him a favourite to be Italy's next prime minister.

All recent opinion polls point to the Democratic Party as the winner of a general election expected in March or April of next year.

The 37-year-old Renzi's strong showing in the primaries is seen as reflecting a desire for renewal within the Democratic Party, many of whose members like Bersani himself are former members of the Italian Communist Party.

The top-selling Corriere della Sera daily said Bersani's victory made him "an independent and weighty candidate for the post of prime minister".

"In order to last and have credibility in Italy and abroad, he cannot give in to those who consider the Monti experience a surrender to liberalism," it said, in reference to Italy's current Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Monti has implemented an ambitious programme of austerity and reforms since coming to power in November 2011 and many Italians are feeling the pinch.

La Stampa daily said Bersani now had to "unite the runners-up" from the primary race including supporters of Renzi and Nichi Vendola, governor of the Puglia region and a traditional leftist fiercely opposed to Monti's policies.

Using a Vatican metaphor, La Stampa said Bersani had "overcome the resistance of his Curia but now he has 100 days to gain the strength and the standing to become pope".

The Il Messaggero daily said he has to work on "the best form of coexistence between the two souls of the Democratic Party" and warned that sometimes the best solution to divisions was "separation".

Il Fatto Quotidiano said: "Today there are two Democratic Parties".

"Will the centre-left be a joint Bersani-Renzi ticket or will they be like an estranged couple living in the same house?"





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