M5S says no Speakers deal, Bersani still open to talks

PD will abstain in first vote 'to keep working towards accord'

M5S says no Speakers deal, Bersani still open to talks

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, March 14 - Comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement said Thursday it would not make a deal with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) on parliamentary Speakers to be voted in on Friday but PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani said he was still open to talks. Bersani's coalition came first in last month's elections but failed to win a majority in the Senate where Bersani has been hoping for M5S support to form a government. But so far Grillo, who has derided Bersani as "a dead man talking", has ruled out having any truck with the PD, which he equates with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party as bulwarks of a corrupt system. Grillo's anti-euro, anti-corruption and Green message brought him a huge protest vote, making the M5S the single biggest party in the House with more than a quarter of the votes. It is currently polling even higher, at about 30%. Ahead of Friday's vote on the Speakerships, the M5S said it would "present our own candidates, and vote for them without outside influence". M5S Senate caucus leader Vito Crimi said: "we are not prepared to stoop to any compromise. "We will choose the candidates from a pre-selection sample and we will communicate (their names) to citizens and the other political forces. "It (the Speakership) will never be a trading chip or a possible way of exerting pressure towards us". Bersani, who has kept his cool and left the door open in the face of a wave of insults from Grillo, said the PD was "ready to start dialogue, right up till the last minute". "These issues require shared decisions," said the PD leader, who is expected to receive a formal government-formation mandate from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, although many see that as doomed to fail. But late Thursday he said that, given that all overtures had so far been rebuffed, the PD would abstain in the first vote to "continue working towards a deal". One possible future scenario is another election this summer with Bersani possibly replaced by the younger, more media-savvy and centrist mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, who has a broader appeal. Renzi has publicly stressed he is a team player and is behind Bersani's efforts. But unidentified sources in Renzi's camp said the mayor, seen as able to win voters from both Grillo and Berlusconi, was "revving his engines in case he has to take to the track". Grillo on Thursday issued a fresh blast at the PD, challenging it to give the funding it received for the general election to charity, as the M5S has. "It's possible to conduct politics without resorting to public funds," said Grillo, recalling that Italians voted against political funding in a referendum in 2000. Bersani, who has issued an eight-point platform reflecting most of the M5S's policies, says he wants to trim funding but not eliminate it completely because that would open the way for US-style money politics where cash-rich lobbies dictate policies. Bersani also blasted Grillo's claim Wednesday in an interview with German daily Handeslblatt, that Italy was "already out of the euro". Such statements, the PD leader said, could produce "disasters of cosmic proportions". A two-third majority is needed in the first three votes for the Speakerships. After that, a simple majority suffices. Pundits say that the current deadlock could mean the voting will run past Friday into the weekend or even Monday.

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