Italy hopeful over Bersani govt-formation mandate

Napolitano calls for 'strong national cohesion'

Italy hopeful over Bersani govt-formation mandate

(By Christopher Livesay) 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. "I am going to take the time that is necessary, it is a difficult situation," Bersani said after Napolitano handed him the mandate. "I will try and meet the parties with clear ideas, few words, and specific guidelines on the reforms process," specifying "constitutional and political-electoral reforms. "I will try to continue in line with the words of Napolitano and proceed with the creation of a government able to generate the necessary changes". Democratic Party leaders have refused a broad coalition involving ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and his center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party during meetings with President Napolitano. On Friday, Napolitano acknowledged that forming a broad coalition bore "apparent difficulties" but called on Bersani to form a government "in the fullness of its powers" as soon as possible. PdL House Whip Renato Brunetta said that "a government in the fullness of its powers cannot exist without a center-right coalition". 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. Despite the gridlock, Bersani was confident of his party's ability to lead the country after emerging from meetings with the president on Thursday. "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". On Friday, the PD said meetings with other party representatives could begin as early as Saturday afternoon.

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