Italian president summons Bersani, may give mandate

By James Mackenzie ,Reuters

ROME — President Giorgio Napolitano called center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani to a meeting on Friday, suggesting he may ask the former industry minister to seek support from other parties to form a government and end political deadlock. Napolitano completed two days of consultations with party leaders on Thursday after an election last month which gave the center-left control of the lower house but left it short of a majority in the Senate, meaning it cannot govern alone. With no party holding a majority in parliament, the eurozone’s third largest economy faces the prospect of weeks of uncertainty just as the banking crisis in Cyprus revives fears of a renewed bout of financial market turmoil. In a statement on Friday, the president’s office said that Bersani, a 61-year-old former communist, had been summoned to meet Napolitano in the Quirinale Palace for a meeting at 5 p.m. local time (1600 GMT). Bersani said late on Thursday that he hoped to be able to present a limited program of economic and institutional reforms that could be backed by all forces in parliament. However the Democratic Party (PD) leader, whose position has come under growing pressure over his failure to convert a 10-point opinion poll lead into a clear election win, faces trenchant resistance from the other parties. “The reality is that whoever gets a mandate to form a new government has to be able to show they have a stable political majority already in place. And at this moment, Bersani can’t be that person,” said Renato Brunetta, the lower house leader of Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right People of Freedom party (PDL). If Bersani cannot gather enough support, Italian media have speculated that Napolitano could ask a respected outside figure, such as Senate speaker and former top anti-mafia judge Pietro Grasso, to try to form a government. He has said he would be willing to serve the state in any way he can. However the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement led by former comic Beppe Grillo has repeatedly said it will not back a government led by any other party.