Rome

Centre-left primary winner Bersani vows to level with Italy

PD chief promises not to tell 'fairy tales'

Centre-left primary winner Bersani vows to level with Italy

Rome, December 3 - Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani said he will lead Italy's centre left to victory at next spring's national elections without deceiving voters about the tough choices ahead. The PD have a significant lead in the polls so Bersani is in a strong position to replace Premier Mario Monti next year after a big win over Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi in Sunday's centre-left primary runoff. Bersani, a 61-year-old former minister, secured over 60% of the votes cast. Renzi, a 37-year-old who is also a PD member and presented himself as a modernizer, captured around 39%. "We have to raise the bar and win the elections without telling fairy tales," said Bersani. "Now the real battle starts," he added at a rally of supporters. "I ask you once again to give all the commitment and conviction you have for this journey we take together. "Here we don't have just one man, it's necessary to govern with the people. "Let's use strength, energy and a little good cheer, which is a characteristic of our people. And let's have a little serenity too. "There's no need to get anxious or be afraid. We should be relaxed, strong and determined". Around 30% of voters intend to vote for the PD, according to recent polls, so Bersani is tipped to win elections likely to take place in March. There are doubts, however, about whether Bersani will have a working majority, in part because of the rise of comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which is second in the polls. He has said he will try to reach out to centrist parties although this task is made difficult by the fact that the PD has already agreed to form an alliance with the left-wing SEL party. Bersani, a veteran of Italy's former Communist party, paid tribute to Renzi after some tense moments during the primary campaign. He said Renzi was a "precious resource" for attracting new voters to the PD. "I recognise that Renzi gave a strong presence and freshness to the primaries," Bersani added. "His contribution helped to give sense to them and make them an authentic experience". The run-up to Sunday's runoff was marred by a dispute over whether Renzi had broken the rules for the primaries, because a foundation linked to him took out allegedly misleading advertising in the national press calling on people to vote. Renzi's camp also said many people in Tuscany were not allowed to vote on Sunday even though they should have been able to. But the younger man was gracious in defeat and rejected speculation he could split from the Democratic Party (PD) to form his own group after losing the primary. "I'll be loyal to Bersani," Renzi said, admitting that he had made mistakes in his campaign and said Bersani was the "clear" winner. The Florence mayor, who has aroused suspicion from some members of the PD's rank and file for allegedly being too business-friendly, also managed to joke about Sunday's outcome. "I finally did something left-wing - I lost," he quipped. He added that he would continue his campaign for the party and for Italy's whole political arena to renew itself. Renzi has made several calls for older figures from Italy's political class to be "scrapped", including members of the PD. This has led to him being portrayed at times as an opportunist who is playing on this issue because of his youth. "We tried to change the political world and we didn't manage to," he said. "Once we've shaken off the disappointment, we'll resume the path we've taken. We have three things on our side - enthusiasm, time and freedom". Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL), which is currently the biggest party in parliament but has dropped to third in the polls, is in disarray. The party was meant to hold a primary on December 16 to select its premier candidate although this looks unlikely to take place as the media magnate has said he is thinking of coming out of political retirement and standing for a fourth term as premier.

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