Italian President Giorgio Napolitano took over the search for the next prime minister after Pier Luigi Bersani failed to assemble a majority in the divided parliament.
The stalemate stems from “conditions I considered unacceptable” in the demands of rival lawmakers, Bersani said yesterday after meeting Napolitano at the presidential palace in Rome. The president will consult political leaders today starting at 11 a.m.
Napolitano, 87, must now find a leader capable of building consensus where Bersani, the 61-year-old head of the Democratic Party, came up empty. Differences accumulated during the campaign before the Feb. 24-25 election hurt Bersani’s ability to lure his main adversaries, Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo, into backing his candidacy.
Italy is under pressure to come up with a government capable of halting the recession and protecting the country from Europe’s debt crisis. Napolitano must appeal to Bersani’s forces, who control the lower house of parliament, and win backing from some of the senators loyal to Berlusconi or Grillo.
Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri and Franco Gallo, president of the Constitutional Court, are among the possible candidates for premiership, Corriere della Sera reported today without saying how it got the information.
The president will “personally check the possible developments in the political-institutional framework,” Donato Marra, general secretary for the head of state, told reporters. Napolitano didn’t speak after the meeting with Bersani, whose party said in a statement that he hasn’t given up hope of eventually leading a government.
The next administration will take office with unemployment at the highest since at least 1992 and an economy that has produced four recessions since 2001. Still, the austerity imposed by Prime Minister Mario Monti’s 15-month government slashed the deficit and reduced borrowing costs.
“We keep our fingers crossed that Italy won’t fall apart” before stability can be restored to parliament, said Georg Grodzki, head of credit research at Legal & General Investment Management in London. “Chances are it won’t, because budget-wise they are in reasonably good shape.”
Monti’s government, brought to power in November 2011 as an emergency shield against the sovereign debt crisis, was supported in parliament by an alliance between Bersani and Berlusconi. Their truce unraveled in December with the start of the election campaign.
Bersani squandered a lead in opinion polls prior to the election as Berlusconi, a three-time premier, and Grillo, an ex-comic, were quicker to provide recession-scarred voters with plans for stimulus. When Bersani finally tore up his austerity platform, his rivals refused to rally around him.
“He ran a very weak campaign with a lack of ideas and only half sentences and empty metaphors,” said Riccardo Barbieri, chief European economist at Mizuho International Plc. “There is a Bersani factor for sure, but there is also a broader context of recession, rising unemployment and popular discontent.”