ROME/BERLIN: Italian leftist Pier Luigi Bersani Friday held out the prospect of forming a minority government but was turned down by the rogue party whose votes he most needs, after elections that shocked Europe.
The Democratic Party leader said it would be “a government of change” that would focus on key reforms on issues that the party has in common with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.
“I am calling it a government of change, which I would take the responsibility of leading,” the Democratic Party leader told La Repubblica daily after his party won the most votes but failed to win a majority in elections earlier this week.
Asked if he was expecting a confidence vote in parliament from the 5- Star Movement, Bersani said its leader Beppe Grillo “has to decide. You can’t change things with people who just want to eat the cherry on the cake.”
“The country needs a government. We cannot be adrift in front of Europe and the markets,” he said.
But in a post on his popular blog, Grillo said the Democratic Party was making all sorts of offers for an alliance to his movement and stated he would not take part in any “horse-trading.”
“This is the usual whorish way of doing politics,” said the former comedian turned populist firebrand whose party won a quarter of the votes in the lower house of parliament.
Not everyone in Grillo’s movement agrees with him, however, and the idea of a loose kind of alliance with the Democratic Party is being debated.
Italy’s new parliament has to meet by March 15 at the latest, after which formal talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano are scheduled to begin on the formation of a new government.
Bersani said his government would have key aims, including easing austerity, creating jobs, helping the poorest and cutting government costs – echoing at least some of the demands made by the grassroots, Internet-based 5-Star Movement.
But since the center-left coalition did not manage majorities in both houses of parliament, a new government of this type would depend on the support of other parties in the upper house – an arrangement analysts warn would prove unstable at a time of acute economic crisis for Italy.
Another possibility mooted in recent days would be a technocratic government like the outgoing one led by former European commissioner Mario Monti who won praise abroad but became increasingly unpopular in Italy because of austerity cuts.
A centrist coalition led by Monti came in fourth place, garnering far too little support to be able to cobble a majority in alliance with the left.
Bersani meanwhile ruled out another possibility – the formation of an emergency coalition with his longtime archrival Silvio Berlusconi – saying: “The hypothesis of a grand understanding does not exist and will never exist.”
Most analysts say there will have to be new elections within months to resolve the impasse, an option Napolitano ruled out Friday.
Speaking during a state visit to Berlin, Napolitano said Italy needed a stable government and could not immediately hold a new election.
“I’m not interested in going back to vote again,” Napolitano told reporters at the margins of an event at the Humboldt University.
Napolitano’s mandate ends in mid-May but he said his successor would be just as reluctant to call a new vote.
“I doubt that a new president will be thinking only of new elections. We’ll have to see how to give Italy a government,” the head of state said.
Former premier Berlusconi, who came a very close second after the center-left in the elections, held out the prospect of a short-term alliance with the left in order to reform an electoral law widely seen as unfair and then having new elections.
“I would not be against continuing the election campaign and going immediately to new elections after changing the election law,” Berlusconi told news channel SkyTG24.
“Italy is risking a lot. Everyone is looking at us with a lot of concern,” he added.
Berlusconi featured on the front cover of British weekly, The Economist, which portrayed him and Grillo under the headline: “Send in the clowns: How Italy’s disastrous election threatens the future of the euro.”
The scandal-tainted Berlusconi Friday made an appearance at his appeal trial in Milan against a tax fraud conviction linked to his business empire.
A verdict in the case is expected later this month, along with a ruling in another trial in which Berlusconi is a defendant on charges of having sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office while he was still prime minister.