Italy remained in political gridlock Thursday after the centre-left leader announced he had failed to form a government.
Pier Luigi Bersani, who has been talking with parties since Friday, expressed some bitterness when he told reporters at the President’s office in Rome that he found “unacceptable” attempts by some parties to set “preclusions and conditions”.
Mr. Bersani’s attempt at forming a government able to help Italy out of recession and get Italians back to work was always a long shot. Mr. Bersani’s coalition controls the Lower House, but not the Senate, and inconclusive February elections gave strong voice to a protest party.
The next move belongs to President Giorgio Napolitano, who will hold a day of consultations Friday to “personally ascertain the developments possible”, the President’s secretary-general, said Donato Marra.
The failure makes more likely a possible technical government with a well-defined mission to take on urgent tasks, which include rewriting the election law, and push through some measures that have broader acceptance, like cutting political costs.
The February 24-25 elections ended in a three-way gridlock with Mr. Bersani’s centre-left forces, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right forces and the anti-establishment movement of comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo.
Old animosities and a hardline left wing of his party forced Mr. Bersani to rule out an alliance with Mr. Berlusconi — a sort of grand coalition that Mr. Napolitano clearly favoured. And Mr. Grillo’s 5 Star Movement made clear that it wouldn’t back Mr. Bersani or any established party despite Mr. Bersani’s appeal to responsibility during a meeting Wednesday.
The 5 Star Movement’s apparent intransigence makes a way forward difficult. It refuses steadfastly to vote confidence in any government that it does not run, and the Italian constitution requires a vote of confidence for a government to officially take office. The movement on Thursday proposed that Italy could continue under the caretaker government of Mario Monti, allowing the newly elected parliament to take on some urgent tasks. It was unclear if Mr. Napolitano would find that acceptable, if Mr. Monti would want to stay on, or if such a possibility were even constitutional.
Giovanni Orsina, a professor of political science at Rome’s LUISS University, said there was a limit to how long a government can continue without a vote of confidence, and this caretaker government was formed provisionally until a new government could be formed. “If we say it is not a provisional solution, that it is more permanent, I think Monti should go back to the chambers and ask for confidence.” .
Mr. Monti, whose technical government enacted emergency measures to help protect Italy from the sovereign debt crisis after Berlusconi stepped down in 2011, dissolved parliament last December after Mr. Berlusconi pulled support, paving the way to elections. More recently, he has been under pressure over his government’s flip-flop over the fate of two Italian marines charged with murder in India. It first announced earlier this month the pair would not go back to face trial after being allowed home temporarily, but then sent them back anyway fearing international isolation over the move.