Letta Makes Progress on Italy Deal With Berlusconi Encouragement

Italy’s prime minister-designate, Enrico Letta, made progress in his bid to form a government as Silvio Berlusconi signaled he’ll back the effort.

Letta, 46, is stitching together a broad coalition to join his Democratic Party, the largest force in parliament, with Berlusconi, a three-time former prime minister who heads the second-biggest group. Letta met with representatives from various political parties yesterday, and Berlusconi said his lawmakers were encouraged by the discussions.

“It didn’t seem to me that there were real problems on the program,” Berlusconi said in an interview posted on the website of his Mediaset SpA. “On the things that need to be done, the prime minister in waiting demonstrated a very positive approach.”

Letta is seeking to build consensus around a policy program and Cabinet to replace Prime Minister Mario Monti’s caretaker administration. On April 24, Letta was selected by President Giorgio Napolitano and given a mandate to lead the next government. If he wins over a majority of lawmakers, he will return to Napolitano for his appointment as premier and present his government to parliament for a confidence vote.

Letta won the endorsement of Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, one of the most popular leaders in the Democratic Party, or PD. Renzi’s backing may help Letta ease tension in the PD on the so-called political left as some lawmakers resist an alliance with Berlusconi, their traditional rival.

‘Strong Words’

“Letta has all the elements to overcome all of the difficulties,” Renzi, 38, said in an interview televised on SkyTG24 today. “It won’t be easy, because naturally there is anti-Berlusconi-ism, there have been strong words from the center-right about the left. But I think good sense will prevail.”

Italian politicians have struggled since inconclusive elections Feb. 24-25 to patch together the parliamentary majority needed to support new government. The next administration will be charged with passing economic stimulus measures and guarding against a return of default speculation on the sovereign bond markets.

Renzi had the trust of 55 percent of voters in a March 29 SWG Institute opinion poll, ranking first ahead of national leaders including the PD’s then-chief, Pier Luigi Bersani, with 30 percent, Berlusconi’s 26 percent and Monti with 19 percent.

Letta became head of the PD this week after the resignation of Bersani, who failed for eight-weeks to resolve the political impasse.