'Wise men' won't take too long says Napolitano

'8-10 days' for consensus policy proposals

'Wise men' won't take too long says Napolitano

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, April 2 - Experts dubbed 'wise men' Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has turned to for help in getting out of the country's post-election quagmire won't keep parties waiting too long for their eagerly awaited consensus policy proposals. The two panels set up by Napolitano Saturday to try to break Italy's post-election deadlock Saturday will take "8-10" days to make proposals on key reforms and economic moves, the presidential website said after they got their instructions from the president Tuesday. They will address "serious, urgent and underlying problems," Napolitano said, stressing, on the other hand, they would not suggest "any kind of government", a job that was up to Napolitano to hash out with the leading parties after February's inconclusive vote. Addressing criticism of the men he named, Napolitano stressed the choice had been made "in conditions of particular urgency and difficulty" after a government-formation bid by centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party (PD) failed. The president apologised that no women were among the 10. Before meeting the 10 institutional and political experts, Napolitano denied suggestions he was playing for time or usurping the role of parties. Figures from Italy's top two parties - the PD and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party - were among those nominated, but the third-biggest force, comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement, which rode a huge protest vote to hold the balance of power in the Senate, is not represented. Two members of outgoing Premier Mario Monti's Civic Choice party, which came in a far-off and disappointing fourth in the February 24-25 polls, were also named. The panels' work, Napolitano said, would be "absolutely informal, purely reconnaissance, and have obvious time limits". Napolitano first met Tuesday with the six figures who will suggest moves to ease Italy's painful recession and keep it in line with EU commitments: the head of statistics agency ISTAT, Enrico Giovannini; Competition Authority head Giovanni Pitruzzella; Bank of Italy Deputy Director-General Salvatore Rossi; Giancarlo Giorgetti, a member of the Northern League and former head of the House budget committee; the PD's Filippo Bubbico, head of special parliamentary commissions which have yet to get to work; and outgoing European Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi. The head of State then met with the four figures charged with proposing institutional reforms, especially of Italy's widely criticised electoral law: Constitutional Court President Valerio Onida; the PD's Luciano Violante and the PdL's Gaetano Quagliariello, who framed a Constitutional reform plan under the outgoing government, which was never enacted; and MEP and human-rights expert Mario Mauro from Civic Choice. Among Violante and Quagliariello's ideas which were never implemented were: electoral reform to introduce a proportional and first-past-the post system where voters can pick their MPs rather than being forced to vote 'blocked' party lists; turning the Senate into a federal chamber rather than, as it is now, a legislative body with the same powers as the House; boosting the powers of the premier to assure government stability; and cutting the number of parliamentarians. The two working meetings are aimed at "formulating precise policy proposals that can become a target shared by political forces," the president's office said. All three leading forces, which have issued mutually incompatible diktats or, in the case of Grillo, a blanket refusal to cooperate, have criticised the president's 'wise men'. The PD has been lukewarm to the names chosen and noted that Bersani's exploratory mandate has not been formally revoked. The PdL has said Napolitano is wasting time, after Bersani allegedly did the same, and there should be either a PD-PdL grand coalition or new elections. Grillo called the nominees "nurses" for an allegedly gerontocratic democracy - prompting Onida to shoot back that they should rather be called "baby-sitters" since the parliament was in its infancy.

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