Italy "wise men" urge reform to help break political deadlock

ROME, April 12 Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:06am EDT

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ROME, April 12 (Reuters) - A panel of "wise men" named by Italy's president proposed sweeping political and economic reforms on Friday, but there was little sign they would achieve the aim of creating a consensus programme to unite feuding political parties.

Italy has been left with a caretaker government for 45 days since an inconclusive election gave no party enough seats in parliament to govern alone, while personal enmity among faction leaders has made it all but impossible to agree a coalition.

In an effort to bridge the divide, President Giorgio Napolitano, whose term ends in May, named a 10-man group last month to come up with policy proposals that could serve as the basis for a consensus programme.

The panel proposed a range of changes to Italy's governing system: red tape should be slashed, the bloated political system cut back, administration simplified and tax collection made more efficient.

Italy should also do more to help families hurt by the recession and to encourage small and medium sized business, while sticking to fiscal austerity targets promised to European partners, the panel said.

"The decisions are now up to the political forces and it will be up to my successor to draw the conclusions," Napolitano said after meeting the group in his office at Rome's Quirinale palace.

The panel includes a former head of the constitutional court, the head of statistics agency ISTAT and a member of the Bank of Italy board, as well as senior politicians from the main centre-left and centre-right parties.

Italy's political parties all say they are committed to deep reforms that would improve the way the country is run to help bring it out of its economic crisis. But personal rivalries among their leaders have left little room for unity.

The election on February 25 left parliament split into three rival blocs with no group in command of the majority in both houses needed to form a government.

The centre-left alliance led by Pier Luigi Bersani won control of the lower house but fell short of a majority in the Senate where he would need the support of rival parties to win a confidence vote.

He has ruled out an alliance with the centre-right bloc led by Silvio Berlusconi and has failed to win the backing of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement led by ex-comic Beppe Grillo, which rules out any deal with the mainstream parties.

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