Renzi defends 'time-wasting' charge

Says Berlusconi 'trusts' PD old guard, won't start own party

Renzi defends 'time-wasting' charge

Florence, April 5 - Florence Mayor and rising Democratic Party (PD) star Matteo Renzi on Friday defended his charge that the Italian political system was wasting time as the country continues to suffer 40 days after February's inconclusive general election. "I said what 95% of Italians are thinking," he said, despite Thursday's denial from President Giorgio Napolitano who defended the work of his 10 so-called 'wise men' charged with framing policies the parties may agree on, with much-needed electoral reform topping the list. Renzi reiterated that PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani should swallow his pride and form a government with arch-enemy Silvio Berlusconi, or else agree to a snap election. He argued that Berlusconi "trusted" the PD old guard much more than he did the younger PD generation that emerged from the election, "so it would be much easier for them to find an agreement" on a left-right coalition. Renzi denied plans to break from the PD and form his own party, saying "there are enough parties already". A PD-led alliance got a majority in the House but not the Senate on February 25, with ex-premier Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party running them a close second, both with almost 30% of the vote, and comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star movement coming in 5% behind to hold the balance of power in the hung parliament. While Grillo refuses to talk to the PD or PdL, damning them as equally culpable in an allegedly corrupt and dysfunctional system, Bersani has rebuffed Berlusconi's overtures for a grand coalition between left and right. On Friday Renzi said "we still really don't know who won or lost and we haven't the foggiest idea when there will be a government". Renzi's "time-wasting" accusation brought a swift response from Bersani, who accused the Florence mayor of "having the same line as Berlusconi". The surprise call is splitting the PD between a majority of Bersani loyalists, who agree he should make a second attempt at forming a minority 'government of change' after Napolitano's experts produce their limited reform platform next week, and a faction which is expected to push for the more charismatic and younger Renzi to make a stronger challenge for the PD leadership in upcoming primaries. Bersani, backed by the party's establishment and apparatus, handily defeated Renzi in centre-left primaries on December 2 and before Thursday's call for speedier action had been a loyal team player despite his contention the PD must be renewed. For several years Renzi has been calling for the party to "scrap" its old leadership. According to polls, a centre-left alliance led by Renzi would have secured a majority in the general election, despite a controversial system that militates against a clear winner emerging. The Florence mayor is also topping polls as the most popular choice for next premier. Napolitano is expected to press on with efforts to avoid a new snap vote that would prolong instability which could be penalised by the financial markets. But his successor may find no other way out of the post-election stalemate. Parliament will start electing a successor to Napolitano on April 18 who, unlike the incumbent whose powers are limited at the end of his term, will be able to dissolve parliament.

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