Florence

Renzi repeats 'time-wasting' charge despite flak

Berlusconi insists on grand coalition

Renzi repeats 'time-wasting' charge despite flak

(By Denis Greenan). 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". Tensions within the PD were fuelled Friday after the party daily l'Unita' headlined Renzi Says No To Bersani Government. 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. Bersani is expected to take a second shot at rallying support for a minority 'government of change' after the wise men produce their platform. 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. BERLUSCONI INSISTS ON GRAND COALITION. Meanwhile Berlusconi reiterated on his forzasilvio.it website Friday that a grand coalition with the centre left was needed to bring stability. "A return to the polls by June is not our first choice because we know that the most urgent matter is to pull the country out of the crisis in the shortest time possible. Therefore it is a priority and indeed, indispensable to immediately form a stable, strong government". However, Berlusconi said that if the country did return to the polls the PdL would prevail since they were "ahead in the latest surveys". "Only if the Democratic Party refuses this solution (of a grand coalition) will we have to turn to early elections. If the country votes, according to the latest polls, we would take the Senate and the House," Berlusconi said. Berlusconi said that he would continue his tour of political rallies around the country, travelling to the southern city of Bari on April 13. "As you all well know, I ask nothing for myself - no institutional role or government position. I only ask to be able to continue to perform the task that was entrusted to me by our constituents - that is to unite the center right and help lift our country out of this crisis that is the most serious we have experienced since the end of WWII," Berlusconi said. A poll released Friday showed support for Renzi growing at 56%, up 1% over the week before. He was followed by Grillo with 30% and Bersani at 29%, pollster SWG said. Berlusconi stood at 27%, up 1% over last week. Incumbent technocrat Premier Mario Monti, leader of the small centrist and reformist Civic Choice platform, registered a popularity of 23%, up 4% over last week. The poll said Italians would give the three main political formations around 25% each if they were to return to the ballot box now. The PD would poll 25.5%, followed closely by M5S at 25.4% and the PdL at 25%. Civic Choice showed a 0.3% rise in popularity, coming in at 7.1%, while the regionalist Northern League - the PdL's key ally - dropped 0.2% to stand at 4.1%.

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