ROME: Italian left leader Pier Luigi Bersani admitted Tuesday he had “come first but not won” crucial elections and asked parties to join him in key reforms to respond to Italians’ most urgent needs.
Bersani also warned that the huge protest vote in the poll that left parliament deadlocked was a warning for leaders across the continent.
“The bell tolls also for Europe,” Bersani said.
“We are aware that we are in a dramatic situation, we are aware of the risks that Italy faces,” he said in his first speech since elections that spooked Europe and the financial markets.
Final results showed his coalition had won the lower house but no party had taken the upper house.
The vote was seen as crucial for the eurozone, which fears a return to political instability in Italy could send shock waves across a euro area still struggling with a debt crisis.
Analysts warned the eurozone’s third economy could now face fresh elections within months to resolve the gridlock.
A majority in both chambers of parliament is required to form a government, leaving Italy in a state of limbo with a hung parliament – unprecedented in its postwar history.
Bersani called for an agreement with other parties on basic reforms that everyone could agree on – cutting government costs, reforming the labor market and helping Italy’s poorest as the country endures its longest recession in two decades.
Analysts said this could be seen as a possible opening to the Five Star Movement (M5S) led by comedian turned anti-corruption firebrand Beppe Grillo, which won dozens of seats in both houses.
But Bersani urged Grillo to outline his demands.
“Up until now they’ve said everyone should go home. Now they too are on the inside. Either they go home or they say what they want to do with the country,” he said.
Bersani admitted he had been “overtaken” by the protest vote after M5S became the biggest single party in parliament, not counting coalitions.
Under the constitution, parliament has to meet within 20 days of an election, after which formal negotiations begin with President Giorgio Napolitano on forming a new government.
The run-up to the convocation of parliament is likely to be thick with backroom negotiations in uncharted waters for Italy with the presence of dozens of political newcomers from Grillo’s party.
European capitals were quick to voice concern.
“It’s a leap into the unknown, which bodes poorly both for Italy and for the rest of Europe,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said.
“We’re not against the world,” Grillo told reporters Tuesday at a lively press conference.
“We’ll see reform by reform, law by law. If there are proposals that are compatible with our program, we will evaluate them,” he said.
Analysts said there were two likely options – either the center-left could seek a loose alliance with M5S in the Senate with support in parliament, or an emergency government could be formed to pass key reforms and call new elections.
Berlusconi Tuesday dismissed the idea of fresh polls, saying in an interview: “I don’t think it would be useful in the situation. Monti and his austerity have put this country in danger.”