Bersani unveils 8-point platform, says won't court M5S

'Road is clear, confident in Napolitano's wisdom'

Bersani unveils 8-point platform, says won't court M5S

(By Denis Greenan) Rome, March 6 - Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani on Wednesday outlined the platform for "a government of change" that he intends to present to President Giorgio Napolitano after Italy's general election failed to a produce a clear winner. The platform is made up of eight "essential" points that are broadly in line with the manifesto of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) of ex-comedian Beppe Grillo, who rode a huge protest vote to become the biggest party in the House and hold the balance of power in the Senate. The shock result came amid widespread public disenchantment with a political class that has been hit by a series of corruption scandals and is seen by some as having done more to protect its privileges than to resolve Italy's economic ailments. Bersani told a meeting of his Democratic Party (PD) executive that he was not trying to "court" the M5S. Instead, he said, he was seeking to connect with angry and disaffected voters. Bersani's alliance came first in the vote but it failed to win a working majority in the Senate after ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre right came a close second and the M5S mopped up most of the remaining seats. Bersani has ruled out forming a government with Berlusconi. Grillo is hostile to the established parties and has said he will not back a government led by Bersani or Berlusconi. Nonetheless, Bersani is hoping to persuade Grillo to soften his stance, saying he will ask parliament to vote confidence in the platform. The PD executive voted in favour of Bersani's proposal. Bersani emerged to tell reporters that "the road is narrow but clear" and that he had "full confidence in the wisdom" of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who is expected to hand Bersani a government-formation mandate. During the pre-vote debate, Bersani said he was trying to reach out to a "disillusioned" public. "Here we are not courting Grillo, but we are interpreting what is moving deep down (in society) in order to break a hole in the wall of self-referentiality of the (political) system, which is starting to be at stake," Bersani said. He told Grillo he must say what he wants to do to break out of the stalemate. "Everyone must take their responsibilities, even he who had the support of eight million voters and who has chosen the parliamentary path must say what he wants to do," he added, referring to Grillo. Bersani said he would not accept a "spurious agreement" and said the PD would not allow itself to be used as "a target." "The other parties do not have better offers to govern the country. Other than ideas for blocking our road, they have nothing to say to the country," Bersani said. Bersani again ruled out the possibility of forming a grand coalition Berlusconi's centre-right alliance, which he said was "incompatible" with the PD platform. "These points are essential for any prospective of a government, and we are ready to open a debate after publishing them. Our proposal is also open to suggestions," the PD chief added. The programme, which will be posted online and "open for public debate", consists of the following eight points: 1. MOVES TO EXIT THE EUROZONE 'AUSTERITY CAGE' - Austerity brought on by the eurozone crisis has only exacerbated sovereign debt troubles and economic contraction in the affected countries, Bersani said. So budget discipline must be balanced with pro-growth public investment and greater flexibility in public finances in the medium term, he said. 2. URGENT EMPLOYMENT AND SAFETY-NET MEASURES - A dozen or so measures that include establishing a national minimum wage; a universal system of unemployment benefits; eased budget discipline for local governments to boost social welfare, schools and health facilities; and paying government suppliers billions in unpaid debts with special-purpose treasury bonds. 3. REFORMS FOR POLITICAL AND PUBLIC LIFE - Reforms aimed at streamlining and cleaning up government, including halving the number of parliamentarians, eliminating provincial governments, reducing MPs' pay, slashing bureaucracy, instituting codes of conduct for politicians and electoral-law reform. 4. A NEW LEAF ON JUSTICE AND EQUALITY - New measures to crackdown on corruption, fraud, vote-trading, tax fraud and the lengthening statutes of limitations. 5. REGULATING CONFLICT OF INTERESTS - Passing conflict of interest reforms proposed by the Constitutional Affairs Committee under the last centre-left government of ex-premier Romano Prodi between 2006 and 2008. 6. GREEN ECONOMY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT - A series of measures aimed at optimizing the waste cycle, renovating construction to meet new energy standards, the introduction of smart grids, and revamping abandoned structures. 7. CIVIL RIGHTS REFORM - Introducing automatic Italian citizenship for all people born on Italian soil and civil unions for same-sex couples under regulations similar to German law. 8. RESEARCH AND EDUCATION - Measures to tackle school dropout rates, improve the structural safety of schools, provide stable employment for teachers, and recruit researchers. President Napolitano will likely hand the mandate to Bersani around March 22, Italian pundits say. Most political experts expect Bersani's bid to be unsuccessful, possibly ushering in another unelected technocrat administration like the one Mario Monti led from November 2011 to December 2012. Monti, who did badly in the elections, is credited with restoring Italy's credibility but worsening the recession with his tough austerity policies.

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