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Monti Says Bersani May Need to Drop Allies to Govern Italy

Leader of Italy's Democratic Party Pier Luigi Bersani
Italy’s Pier Luigi Bersani is seeking to broaden his appeal beyond his labor base by citing his backing for Monti, while at the same time appeasing the union supporters and anti-government wing of the party that helped win a primary challenge with more than 60 percent of the vote. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Italy’s caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti said Democratic Party head Pier Luigi Bersani, who leads in opinion polls, may need to cut ties to some of his allies to form a post-election coalition that can govern.

Election rules make it difficult for any party to win a Senate majority. Should Bersani fail to gain control of both houses of Parliament and need to strike an alliance with Monti, the premier’s pledge to further reform the labor market may prove to be a sticking point for some core Bersani supporters.

“I think it’s always a good thing to cut the wings, if by that ugly expression one means cutting extreme positions,” Monti told state-owned television network RAI in an interview today when asked whether he would consider an alliance with Bersani after elections on Feb. 24-25.

Bersani, a former communist who opened up Italy’s energy market as industry minister under former premier Romano Prodi, is backed by Italy’s biggest union and by Apulia governor Nichi Vendola, who opposed Monti’s austerity policies. The leader of the Democrats has already said his party supports only some of the measures outlined by Monti in a 25-page political manifesto published last month.

“I confirm my respect, but I also urge to respect the Democratic Party as a whole,” Bersani told reporters in Rome when asked about Monti’s remarks. “We are a liberal party which will never shut anyone’s mouth.”

Labor Market

Monti said today that during his 13 month-term he noted resistance to his policies from both the Democratic Party and his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party. Both parties backed his government.

The former European commissioner said politicians from both parties are now endorsing his political bloc. “They are coming toward us,” he said.

“Monti’s decision to participate in the election is a poisoned chalice and one which turns the campaign into a referendum on his economic program,” Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, said in a note to clients yesterday. “Indeed, it is likely to accentuate left-right divisions in Italian politics.”

A center bloc, including Monti’s list, the Union of Centrists and Future for Italy, would win 12 percent of the vote, according to a Dec. 31 poll by the Istituto Piepoli for published yesterday.

A center-right alliance, including Berlusconi’s party though not the Northern League, would get 24 percent. Bersani and his allies lead with 42 percent, according to the same poll.

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