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Skepticism about president's 10 'wise men'

PdL sees experts unlikely to break deadlock, Grillo says no need

Skepticism about president's 10 'wise men'

Rome, March 31 - Two of the three main groups in parliament on Sunday expressed skepticism about the chances of success of a group of 10 "wise men" appointed by President Giorgio Napolitano 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 groups were "frozen between irreconcilable stances". Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani centre-left's alliance, which came first in the election but failed to win a working majority in the Senate, has pledged to give full backing to the initiative. But ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition, which came a close second and has seen its calls for a grand coalition rejected by Bersani, is cool on the idea. Fabrizio Cicchitto, a senior MP for Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, said it would give the wise men "seven to 10 days" to see if they were able to draft a programme for government it can support. But Renato Brunetta, a former civil service minister and the PdL's House whip, is not optimistic. "The elections indicated that an agreement between the PdL and the PD is the only possible way to have a government," said Brunetta. "I don't think that this initiative (by Napolitano) will change the facts of the problem". Berlusconi has said that if it is not possible for the parties to find an agreement on a government it would be better to have new elections rather than have another technocrat administration like outgoing Premier Mario Monti's emergency government. Meanwhile, Beppe Grillo, the leader of the 5-Star Movement (M5S) that holds the balance of power in parliament after capturing a huge protest vote last month, blasted the experts as "unreal negotiators" and "carers of democracy". The comedian-turned-politician also reiterated his position that Italy did not need to be in a rush to have a new government. He says parliament can pass key reforms, such as a new election law to replace the much-criticised one that failed to produce a winner last month, while outgoing Premier Mario Monti's technocrat administration continues to take care of everyday government business. "The country does not need unreal negotiators or facilitators... who work as groups of wise men," Grillo said via his popular blog, which gave life to the Internet-based M5S in 2009. "It does not need 'carers of democracy', but it does need to make parliament work better and quick". Grillo said that in order to do this, the newly elected parliament needed to focus on setting up its new committees. The impasse has come about to a large degree because Grillo has knocked back Bersani's attempts to win over the M5S with a programme that is in tune with many the movement's proposal policies. Grillo has responded with insults that have included calling Bersani a "dead man talking". The M5S has said it will never vote confidence in a government led by the established parties, which it blames for creating a corrupt, malfunctioning political system that has failed to address Italy's economic and social ills. The M5S's solution to the deadlock is for the other parties to back a government led by it. The president's 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. The head of state stressed on 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.

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