Bersani gets govt-formation mandate

'Strong national unity needed, difficult time' says Napolitano

Bersani gets govt-formation mandate

Rome, March 22 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday handed Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani a mandate to try to form a government. Bersani, whose centre-left alliance has a majority in the House but not the Senate, would be Italy's second ex-Communist premier if he succeeds in mustering enough support in the upper house after last month's inconclusive elections produced a hung parliament. Napolitano, who has insisted on the need to avoid another snap vote, said Italy now needs "a strong spirit of national cohesion" amid this "difficult situation". 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 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 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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