Italy's Bersani tapped to form new government
Democratic Party, PD, leader Pierluigi Bersani walks past a courassier presidential guard...
COLLEEN BARRY, AP
Fri Mar 22, 6:01 PM UTC
ROME (AP) — Italy's center-left leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, was chosen Friday to form a new and viable government, which is badly needed to steer the country out of recession and get more Italians back to work.
The national elections last month produced no clear winner, but President Giorgio Napolitano said the 61-year-old Bersani was best positioned to create a government given "the most difficult circumstances" — a reference that the political leader has a comfortable majority in the lower house, but that the Senate is split.
The vote made plain voters' disenchantment with mainstream parties and largely divided over which forces should lead Italy at this delicate moment.
Bersani's forces finished first, but he has ruled out a coalition with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative alliance, which would risk further alienating the voting base of Bersani's Democratic Party.
But if he shuns Berlusconi, Bersani will need to win support from Parliament's new third bloc, a populist, anti-euro movement founded by comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo.
Grillo has rejected a vote of confidence to support any established party — and support in the required vote of confidence for a new government to go forward. Still, some Grillo lawmakers broke ranks over the weekend and voted to support Bersani's candidate as Senate speaker, a move that infuriated Grillo.
Bersani pledged dialogue with political forces in the coming days, seeking a balance between "a government seeking the change expected by the Italians and one able to carry out reforms."
Outgoing Premier Mario Monti's centrist forces finished fourth with around 10 percent of the vote. Monti, whose government took over in 2011 to enact reforms and austerity measures to safeguard Italy from the continent's debt crisis, continues as caretaker premier until a new one can be installed.
Investors are watching closely to see if Italy can form a stable government to continue on the course of reform. Italy's load of public debt has been growing, but borrowing rates have not come under pressure yet. Sentiment will be tested in a pair of bond sales next week.
Napolitano dismissed criticism that too much time has elapsed before tapping a potential leader. He noted that Israel and the Netherlands each took nearly two months to form governments. Italian elections were held Feb. 24-25, but Napolitano could not consult with leaders until after the new Parliament was seated last week and caucus leaders were chosen.
Colleen Barry reported from Milan.