Italy awaits Napolitano's govt-formation decision

Expected to hand mandate to Bersani but could try other route

Rome, March 22 - Italy was on Friday awaiting a decision from President Giorgio Napolitano on who to hand a government-formation mandate to after last month's inconclusive elections produced a hung parliament. Napolitano, who has insisted on the need to avoid another snap vote, is expected to hand the job to centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who has a majority in the House but not the Senate. But pundits say that, given the parliamentary impasse, he might try to form a so-called "government of the president" led by an authoritative and impartial figure acceptable to all. Napolitano met with Democratic Party (PD) leader Bersani and the heads of the other two biggest parties in parliament on Friday to hash out the formation of the country's next government. "Tomorrow I will present my decisions. I want to organize my thoughts to get a better idea of what decision to take. Tomorrow I will let you all know," Napolitano said following two days of meetings. "Italy needs change and also to be headed by a government soon," Bersani said. Our coalition "is at the disposal of the nation to help install a government and to institute social changes", Bersani said. Bersani, whose alliance came first in the February 24-25 election but failed to win a working majority in the Senate, said preceding the meeting that he would ask Napolitano to give him the mandate to form a new government. Bersani has been trying to reach out to the former-comedian Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement (M5S), even though Grillo considers the PD part of a corrupt, malfunctioning system. Democratic Party (PD) leaders on Thursday continued to refuse a broad coalition involving ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and his center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party during meetings with Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano. "There is neither a plan B, nor a plan A...I took our reflections and I respect the role of the president to tell us how to get out of this difficult situation," Bersani said. On Thursday, the head of state met first with M5S leader Grillo, whose anti-establishment group holds the balance of power in parliament after capturing a huge protest vote. Napolitano later met with Berlusconi and his centre-right coalition, who said it supported a coalition government with the PD but not if the PD claimed the premiership. Grillo said Thursday that the M5S would not support the current makeup of the parliament and would only vote for bills that fit with their platform. In meetings with Napolitano, representatives from his party said they wanted the premiership or control over two important parliamentary commissions, one that oversees state broadcaster RAI, the other, COPASIR, which oversees the secret service. "We, the Democratic Party are the number one force in this country, no matter what anyone says and we are the leading coalition," Bersani said. "Now we need some time" for the birth of the new government and that takes the "co-responsibility of all political forces," the PD leader concluded.

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