Bersani Says Recession Emergency as He Bids for Premiership

Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani called on Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Prime Minister Mario Monti’s coalition to back his efforts to form a government based on a program of easing austerity in recession-wracked Italy.

The nation’s priority is getting “out of the austerity cage,” Bersani, whose bloc won the most votes in inconclusive election last month, told about 100 members of the party’s top body in Rome today. Italy’s next government should be an “active protagonist of a rectification of the European policies for stability,” he said.

Italy’s budget deficit narrowed last year as Monti’s mix of tax increases and spending cuts deepened the country’s fourth recession since 2001 amid unemployment topping 11 percent. Feb. 24-25 election produced a hung parliament, with Bersani’s forces controlling the Chamber of Deputies and his main rivals, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition and Grillo, holding blocking minorities in the Senate.

Italy’s 10-year bond yield fell 8 basis points at 11:30 a.m. in Rome to 4.652 percent. That is still 21 basis points higher than before the elections.

Debt Goals

“Debt and budget adjustment are medium-term goals, while growth and employment are the immediate emergencies,” Bersani added as he presented an eight-point program for his bid to build a government after failing to win a majority in the Italian senate.

Other points include cutting the IMU property tax introduced by Monti last year, measures to ease bureaucracy and to promote a “green” economy. Bersani said his government would pass legislation to reduce the cost of politics, measures against organized crime, an anti-corruption law and stronger conflict-of-interest rules.

Those points could appeal to lawmakers of Grillo’s Five Star Movement, which tapped public anger over austerity and corruption to capture more than 25 percent of the vote.

Grillo has said he won’t support a confidence vote to install a government if it’s led by any of Italy’s politicians. Still his lawmakers have signaled they may let a new government be installed if it’s led by a non-politician in a so-called technical government.

Sent Packing

Grillo “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 in a March 3 interview with Rai3 television.

As Bersani’s party did win a majority in one house of Parliament, President Giorgio Napolitano should give him the first mandate to try to form a government. If Bersani fails, Napolitano may reach out to a non-politician to try to lead Italy, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported yesterday.

Bersani’s allies are divided over how to proceed. The party’s economic policy spokesman Stefano Fassina, said on March 3 that the country may have to hold new elections “in a few months” if Bersani doesn’t get a majority in parliament.

Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, who lost a primary vote to Bersani in December and then campaigned on his behalf in the general election, said he would not challenge Bersani’s leadership now. The coalition had won the election numerically, though lost politically, he said last night in an interview on state-owned Rai3 television.

‘Very Difficult’

“This attempt by Bersani seems very, very difficult to me, but he has the right to try,” Renzi said. “I hope he pulls it off, but he needs the whole party behind him.”

Renzi had a two-hour meeting with Monti yesterday at the premier’s office in Rome. The encounter was an “institutional one of a mayor with the prime minister,” he told reporters. Renzi will attend the party meeting today.

Monti is also meeting today in Rome with members of his Civic Choice party and will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. His coalition won less than 10 percent in the election.

The political uncertainty is likely to continue for weeks. Napolitano said yesterday that he would not move up the date for the first meeting of the new parliament set for March 15. The new lawmakers must first choose leaders for the Chamber and the Senate before Napolitano can begin the consultations with the parties on trying to form a government.

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