Bersani Clings to Premiership Goal as Allies Predict Failure

Pier Luigi Bersani will probably fail to win the consensus needed to form a government in Italy, some allies said yesterday after giving the Democratic Party head a mandate to negotiate parliamentary backing with rivals.

Bersani revamped his program to entice Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement into an alliance with the Democratic Party, or PD. He repudiated his previous commitment to budget rigor and added policy proposals reminiscent of Five Star’s. Still, success depends on smoothing over differences with Grillo, who called Bersani a “dead man talking” after the PD failed to win a parliamentary majority in Feb. 24-25 elections.

“Forming a PD-Five Star government will be hard,” Giuseppe Civati, a regional councilor in Lombardy and parliamentarian-elect, said in an interview after hearing Bersani’s new strategy at a PD meeting in Rome. “Forming a Bersani-PD-Five Star government will be even harder.”

Bersani, a former communist, is reinventing himself as a crusader for economic stimulus as Italy’s established politicians cope with the biggest parliamentary upheaval in two decades. Grillo’s upstart, anti-austerity campaign took votes from both Bersani and three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, leaving no single force in a position to govern and raising speculation a new vote would be needed to break the deadlock.

‘Austerity Cage’

Bersani was applauded by PD officials yesterday in Rome as he announced a fresh program and said priority number one was breaking Italy “out of the austerity cage.” Bersani, who supported Prime Minister Mario Monti’s tax increases last year and promised during the campaign to maintain fiscal austerity, said the PD failed to appeal to voters who have been hurt the most by Italy’s 18-month recession.

“Grillo was the winner of these elections,” Claudio Burlando, governor of the Region of Liguria and a former transport minister, said in an interview. “It will be very difficult” for Bersani to win Grillo’s support, Burlando said.

Bersani, 61, squandered an advantage of as much as 10 percentage points in some opinion polls as promises by Grillo and Berlusconi to undo Monti’s austerity went unanswered by the PD. While Bersani won the Chamber of Deputies, Italy’s lower house, no one garnered more than 40 percent of the seats in the Senate. Control of both houses is required to pass laws.

Italy’s parliament will meet for the first time on March 15. After that, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will begin consulting with lawmakers and eventually appoint one leader to try to garner majorities in both houses and form a government.

Democratic Party officials yesterday voted to approve the new plan and confirm Bersani’s leadership.

“I am absolutely in agreement with Bersani’s plan,” Emanuele Fiano, a representative in the Chamber of Deputies, said in an interview. “I think that in this stage of the crisis it has to be him to try to find a solution for the parliament and the country.”

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