Bersani Insists He’ll Form New Government Without Rivals

Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, whose coalition won the most votes in Italy’s inconclusive elections, insisted he would form a government on his own without seeking an alliance with his main rivals, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo.

“We have 460 parliamentarians, double what the right got and triple what Grillo won,” Bersani said in an interview last night on state-owned RAI3 television’s “Che Tempo Che Fa” program. “So we will have the first word.”

Bersani is trying to dispel concern about political paralysis in Italy after the Feb. 24-25 vote produced a hung parliament, with his forces controlling the Chamber of Deputies while falling far short of a majority in the Senate. So far, the Democratic Party leader has said he will go it alone, without explaining how he could win a confidence vote in the Senate needed to govern.

The possibility of reaching an alliance with Berlusconi, whose coalition lost to Bersani’s group in the Chamber by less than half a percentage point, was “unreal,” Bersani said. He also said he hadn’t met with Grillo about a possible accord and urged Grillo to move beyond his rhetoric that the old guard must go.

“He heads a movement that has a third of the Chamber, he needs to decide what he will do or we will all be sent packing, including Grillo,” Bersani said.

Limited Program

In an acknowledgment of his lack of broad support, Bersani said he would present a “limited and precise” government program focusing on eight points, including an anti-corruption law, measures against organized crime, a conflict of interest law and steps to reduce the cost of politics. All those initiatives would likely appeal to Grillo’s forces, who have campaigned against corruption both inside and outside of Italy’s political system.

The interview came hours after Bersani’s economic policy spokesman Stefano Fassina said the country may have to hold new elections “in a few months” if Bersani doesn’t get a majority in parliament. Fassina also said that the election law, which contributed to producing the split parliament, would have to be overhauled first.

Yield Surge

Italian bond yields surged after the elections ended in a four-way parliamentary split, raising doubt over the stability of the next government. Investors were looking to the election to produce a government capable of pulling Italy out of its fourth recession since 2001 and reduce a $2.6 trillion debt. Italy’s 10-year yield rose 6 basis points today to 4.852 percent, up 40 basis points from before the election.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a report Feb. 27 that the gridlock may reignite the euro-area’s debt crisis as turmoil in the bloc’s third-largest economy risks spilling over into weaker sovereign nations like Portugal and Spain.

New elections may be held in June, July or after the summer, Fassina said yesterday in an interview on Sky TG24 television. Italian voters “rejected” austerity measures imposed by Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government and the euro area isn’t on the right road to end the crisis, he said.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said March 2 that parties should put the public interest and the country’s international reputation first as Grillo reiterated his anti-austerity 5 Star Movement won’t back any government.

Referendum on Euro

Grillo, who has called for a referendum on whether Italy should leave the euro and pay back its debt, last week referred to Bersani as the “walking dead” in his blog. The post dashed hopes that 5 Star might lend enough support for Bersani to be installed in the Senate.

“I repeat for one last time: 5 Star Movement won’t give a confidence vote to any government,” Grillo wrote on his blog March 2.

Nichi Vendola, head of the Ecology, Left and Freedom party that ran in coalition with Bersani, said in an interview with daily la Repubblica that there’s still room for an agreement with Grillo.

“This is just the first phase,” Vendola told Repubblica, referring to Grillo’s criticism. “We are still in a phase of psychological settling after the electoral earthquake, something that is difficult even for Grillo to manage.”

The new parliament is set to convene for the first time on March 15 to choose leaders of both houses. Napolitano will then begin consultations with the main parties to see if any are in a position to form a government, meaning the political wrangling between the main leaders will probably continue for at least two more weeks.

Napolitano may move up the first session of Parliament to March 12, which would allow the consultations on forming a government to begin on March 18, Repubblica reported today, without citing anyone.

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