Rome

Berlusconi insists on coalition as Napolitano bid starts

But PD says 'light-years apart'

Berlusconi insists on coalition as Napolitano bid starts

Rome, March 29 - Centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi on Friday reiterated to President Giorgio Napolitano that a grand coalition between his People of Freedom (PdL) party and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) was the only way out of Italy's post-election impasse. The PD got a majority in the House but not the Senate in the February 24-25 elections, where the PdL came second and comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) rode a huge protest vote to hold the balance of power. Grillo has ruled out working with either party, claiming they are equal culprits in a corrupt and dysfunctional system. Ex-premier Berlusconi tried to persuade PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani to agree to a broad alliance given Grillo's refusal to support the PD, but Bersani refused. Napolitano took over efforts to cobble together a government after Bersani's week-long bid failed. Berlusconi told Napolitano that Bersani could lead an alliance to start tackling Italy's deep economic woes after what he called the "tragic experience" of the technocrat administration of Mario Monti which imposed stiff austerity measures that pulled Italy back from a Greek-style meltdown but deepened the country's worst recession in decades. "We told the president our position, which is the same it has always been," Berlusconi said after talking to Napolitano. "We have to find a way to give life to a coalition government, in the country's interests. "We are willing to meet with the other political forces to hammer out the urgent measures needed to tackle the extremely difficult economic situation," said the three-time premier. PD Senate Whip Luigi Zanda reiterated Bersani's rejection of an alliance with the PdL, saying the two parties were "light-years apart". Napolitano, who has insisted on the need to avoid fresh elections, is meeting the PD and M5S later Friday. If no consensus emerges he may propose a so-called 'government of the president' to enact a limited platform of economic and political reform including changing Italy's much-criticised electoral law to produce a clear winner. The Italian media have floated the names of several authoritative political and economic figures that might head such a government, but none has emerged as a front-runner. Pundits have also said another alliance between the established parties, which backed Monti's year-long government, would boost Grillo's polling ratings, already higher than when his 'tsunami' ripped across the country last month.

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