Rome

Crisis impels new govt 'as soon as possible'

Economic crisis 'will not wait' says Napolitano

Crisis impels new govt 'as soon as possible'

(By Shelly Kittleson). Rome, March 8 - Italy must have a new government as soon as possible because the economic crisis "will not wait", President Giorgio Napolitano said Friday. "There are urgent economic problems" said the head of state, who is expected to hand a mandate to centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani to try to break the post-election stalemate around March 22-23. Italy must overcome its current moment of crisis amid economic woes and a post-election stalemate, President Giorgio Napolitano said Friday. "We have always managed to overcome the most acute moments of crisis and risks of institutional clashes, and we must succeed this time". He noted that the crisis was having serious repercussions on the daily lives of Italians, with dire effects on the poorest ones. It is up to Napolitano to decide which political leader to give the job of trying to form a new government and then how to proceed if this is not possible. He is expected to first turn to centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, whose coalition came first but failed to win a working majority in the Senate because of a huge protest vote for comedian Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement (M5S), which became the single biggest party in the House. Bersani, who has framed an eight-point platform for a "government of change" he hopes might lure enough M5S Senators to secure a confidence vote, on Thursday reiterated that it was time Grillo started facing up to the responsibilities his massive support entails. Grillo, whose M5S unexpectedly won 104 seats in the House and 58 in the Senate, strenuously opposes forming a coalition with the PD or ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, whose centre-right coalition came second in the election. Bersani has also ruled out any attempt to forge a grand coalition with Berlusconi. Grillo did not immediately respond to Bersani's call, instead continuing to rail against the Italian media, which he called part of a corrupt system, and claiming there would have been "violence in the streets" without the safety valve the M5S provided for people to vent their rage. The Italian media have said that if Bersani's government-formation bid fails, as appears likely, Napolitano might favour a technocrat government to enact essential reforms including changing Italy's widely criticised election law, which many say is designed to prevent a clear win, a contention strengthened by the fact that the PD coalition is not able to govern despite winning the popular vote in both houses. But a senior centre-left figure came out against a second straight technocrat government - after Mario Monti's administration, now taking care of ordinary business, which hauled Italy back from the brink of a Greece-style meltdown but deepened Italy’s longest postwar recession and alienated hard-pressed voters with its austerity policies. Stefano Fassina, the PD's economic point man, said it would be "impossible" to have another government like Monti's, which has been in power since Berlusconi was forced out with bond yields at unsustainable levels in November 2011. Any new technocrat government would necessarily have to get a similar majority to that provided by the left, right and centre to ex-European commissioner Monti. But, driving home Bersani's message, Fassina said: "We are not willing to enter any agreement with the PdL". "If the conditions are not there for a government of change with the M5S, then it will be necessary to have new elections. "Berlusconi's PdL does not have the credibility, above all the moral credibility, to be a partner in a phase of change. "If you want to try for a government that continues the Monti agenda, which was resoundingly rejected by the voters, I say it's better to have new elections". Bersani's eight-point platform features some of the points of the M5S's manifesto, including cuts to the number of lawmakers, a conflict-of-interest law that would cut the knot tying up Italian politics since media magnate Berlusconi joined the fray in 1994, and the introduction of a universal system of unemployment benefits. The PD leader had talks Thursday evening with Monti, whose centrist reform platform came in a disappointing fourth in the elections. The two leaders discussed "the priorities of a national reform plan", sources said, and agreed that now was the time for "more growth and jobs" and some loosening of fiscal restraints while complying with EU-mandated targets. But with Grillo refusing to talk to the media and likely to continue shadow-boxing, the political stalemate is likely to drag on, observers said. The deadlock could also make it difficult for the parliament to elect a new head of state before May, when Napolitano's term ends.

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