President's 10 'wise men' to tackle political deadlock

Experts asked to draft platform that can win cross-party backing

President's 10 'wise men' to tackle political deadlock

Rome, March 31 - A group of 10 "wise men" appointed by President Giorgio Napolitano is set to try to tackle the political deadlock that has gripped Italy since last month's inconclusive general election. Napolitano asked the experts to draft a programme of reforms for a government that would be able to win cross-party backing, after conceding on Saturday that the three main parties in parliament were "frozen between irreconcilable stances". The head of state also said Saturday that he would serve until the end of his term on May 15. There had been speculation Napolitano would step down, due to constitutional provisions that limit his powers in his final months of office and prevent him dissolving parliament, in order to enable his successor to call snap elections to end an impasse, amid fears Italy could be plunged back into financial crisis. The panel is made up of five senior institutional figures - Enrico Giovannini, the head of statistics agency ISTAT, European Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Bank of Italy board member Salvatore Rossi, Constitutional Court President Valerio Onida and Competition Authority head Giovanni Pitruzzella. The others come from political parties. They are former House speaker Luciano Violante of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), Senator Gaetano Quagliariello of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, Mario Mauro of outgoing Premier Mario Monti's Civic Choice group, Northern League MP Giancarlo Giorgetti and Filippo Bubbico, a PD Senator. A priority for the experts is likely to be a proposal to change Italy's much-criticised electoral law to ensure it produces a clear winner next time. Napolitano has been criticised for not naming any women or young people among the experts. Comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), which holds the balance of power in parliament after capturing a huge protest vote last month, has also complained about not having a representative. Napolitano turned to the "wise men" after centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani told him Thursday that he had failed to win enough support from rival parties to be able to propose a government capable of winning a confidence vote in parliament. Bersani's alliance came first in the election but failed to win a working majority in the Senate. Berlusconi's centre-right coalition came a close second, with the M5S on its heels in third. Democratic Party (PD) chief Bersani has rejected Berlusconi's calls for him to form a grand coalition with his People of Freedom (PdL) party. But Bersani's attempts to win over the M5S with a programme that is in tune with many the movement's proposal policies have been returned to sender with insults, which have including Grillo calling Bersani a "dead man talking". The M5S's solution is for a government led by it.

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