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Berlusconi’s PDL Offers Bersani Path to Italian Premiership

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March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty Party offered to back rival Pier Luigi Bersani’s bid to become prime minister if his Democratic Party will support a PDL candidate for the presidency.

“After three presidents in a row from the Left, moderates deserve a representative in the presidential palace,” PDL Secretary General Angelino Alfano said yesterday in an interview on state-owned RAI3 television. “We will propose someone with great prestige, absolutely acceptable to the Left, and that would ease the way to the birth of a Bersani government.”

Bersani is struggling to put together a government after inconclusive elections last month left him with a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, though well short in the Senate, where Berlusconi and comedian-turned-anti-establishment-politician Beppe Grillo have blocking minorities. Bersani has so far ruled out any alliance with Berlusconi’s forces, while Grillo has refused to consider backing any of the existing parties.

An unidentified PD official rejected Alfano’s offer, news agency Ansa reported.

Italy’s 10-year bond yield has risen 29 basis points to 4.74 percent since the Feb. 24-25 elections on investor concern that a weak or divided government won’t be able to shield Italy from fallout from the debt crisis.

Second Choices

The obstacles facing Bersani this weekend were apparent when he had to eject his initial candidates for the speakerships of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in favor of political neophytes in a bid to lure enough votes from Grillo’s backers to get them installed. Laura Boldrini, a former spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, was elected speaker of the lower house, while Pietro Grasso, Italy’s top anti-mafia prosecutor, won in the Senate with the support of a handful of Grillo lawmakers.

The group of 5 Star lawmakers had decided to cast blank ballots in the vote, their head Vito Crimi said after Grasso’s election.

After calling on March 16 for the resignation of any of his lawmakers who backed Grasso, Grillo stopped short from openly forgiving them by saying in a post on his website today that some of the senators were victims of a “trap” organized by Berlusconi’s party and the Democratic Party. “It’s not about Grasso, but about respecting the rules,” he added, citing a code of conduct of the 5 Star lawmakers that requires them to reflect in ballots the decisions taken by the majority of the parliamentary groups in each Chamber.

No Support

Grillo has said his Five-Star Movement will never support the existing parties, which he accuses of having ruined the country, and has said he wants to drive them all from politics.

President Giorgio Napolitano, whose terms ends on May 15, has appealed to political leaders to work together to form a government. “We are in a difficult period,” Napolitano said in a televised address yesterday to mark Italy’s National Unity Day.

He will begin consultations with the political parties on March 20 as he seeks to find a way out of the political impasse. As Bersani did win a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, he will probably be given the first chance to try to form a government, though without the support of either part of Berlusconi or Grillo’s forces, he has little chance of putting together a majority.

Napolitano may seek to build another so-called technical government led by a non-politician who would be acceptable to enough of the new lawmakers to win confidence votes in both chambers to form a government. Such a move would be a way to avoid calling another election.

Napolitano orchestrated the current technical government led by Mario Monti, a former European Union competition commissioner who was president of Bocconi University of Milan when he was asked to lead the government after Berlusconi resigned in November 2011.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Davis in Rome at abdavis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tim Quinson at tquinson@bloomberg.net

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