Rome

Bersani, Monti urge 'prompt solutions' for govt, president

Centre-left leader insists on minority PD-led 'govt of change'

Bersani, Monti urge 'prompt solutions' for govt, president

Rome, April 4 - Centre-left Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani and outgoing Premier Mario Monti on Thursday agreed "prompt solutions" were needed to forge broad agreement around a possible new government and the election of Italy's next president. The two leaders called for the "widest possible backing by parliamentary forces" to break the stalemate after February's inconclusive general election and also elect a replacement for President Giorgio Napolitano. They said they would "coordinate moves", including the upcoming presidential election. Bersani, who came first in the general election but does not have a majority in the Senate, told Monti, who ran in a disappointing fourth, that the only way out of the impasse remained a minority PD-led 'government of change' running in tandem with a broader 'convention' on institutional reforms, including changing Italy's much-criticised electoral law to produce a clear winner. Last month Bersani made a futile week-long attempt to lure Senators from comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement before handing the ball back to Napolitano. The president named 10 'wise men' to come up with a platform for possible consensus but Bersani is refusing to join second-placed ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi in a grand coalition while third-placed Grillo, who has the balance of power in the Senate, won't talk to either of them. Napolitano's successor will be named in voting by a joint session of parliament starting April 18, about a month before the president's term ends. Several names have been touted including ex-premiers Romano Prodi and Giuliano Amato as well as former EU commissioner Emma Bonino but none currently appears likely to garner the broad support that is usually expected. Pundits say the next president may dissolve parliament and call fresh elections. Napolitano, who has insisted on avoiding another vote with Italy in deep economic and social trouble and financial markets liable to penalise protracted instability, is in any case unable to do this because of a limitation of powers in the last six months of a president's term. Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, seen as a future centre-left leader, on Thursday said Italy was wasting time and called for a snap vote if Bersani and Berlusconi could't agree to rule together. Napolitano said he did not think this was the case and defended the wise men's work. The surprise break with the party line from Renzi, who is seen as a more centrist successor to Bersani with broader appeal, split the PD into those who agreed it should seek a deal with Berlusconi and those who supported their leader's rejection of this. Some PD members accused Renzi, who has gone further in some reform calls than Bersani by proposing the complete abolition of party funding, of trying to "drive a wedge down the middle of the party". Renzi was handily defeated by Bersani in primaries for the PD leadership last year but pundits think the media-savvy upstart, who openly campaigned to "scrap" the party's establishment, might beat the less telegenic and more traditional Bersani if the PD manages to fit in other primaries before the next election.

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