* Centre-left leader rules out set deals with rival forces
* Says will bring proposals on jobs, fighting corruption to
* Berlusconi party says election of speakers shows left
cannot govern alone
* Centre-right offers support in exchange for naming
By James Mackenzie
ROME, March 17 Italy's centre-left leader Pier
Luigi Bersani said on Sunday he would seek the backing of
parliament for his policies on creating jobs and fighting
corruption in the absence of enough support to form a
Stalemate after a deadlocked election in February and the
threat of months of political instability has triggered alarm
across Europe and warnings that Italy cannot afford to delay
urgently needed reforms to boost its sickly economy.
President Giorgio Napolitano is due to begin consultations
with political leaders on Wednesday to see if there is any
chance of establishing a government.
Bersani, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD),
won control of the lower house but fell short in the Senate
leaving him dependent on the support of his rivals if he is to
form a government.
He said he would tell Napolitano he would not try to reach
any set deals in advance but would present a set of proposals to
parliament based on attacking corruption and creating jobs.
"The path is very, very narrow. I think I can say that other
paths would turn out to be even narrower," he said.
If no understanding that would allow a government to be
formed can be reached, Italy faces the prospect of a return to
the polls, possibly as soon as June, although Bersani said he
hoped that would not be necessary.
Bersani was successful on Saturday in getting his candidates
elected as speakers of the lower house and Senate, helped by
abstentions and a handful of votes from rebels in the
anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.
New senate speaker Pietro Grasso, a top anti-mafia judge who
made his name fighting organised crime in Palermo, and lower
house speaker Laura Boldrini, a former spokeswoman for the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees, represent a change from the
career politicians who traditionally took such roles.
Even so, the result of the contest for the Senate speaker
showed clearly that Bersani would not be able to win a
confidence vote in parliament, with Grasso elected with 137
votes, 21 short of a majority in the 315-seat upper house.
"The figures show that Bersani cannot obtain any mandate to
form a new government since he quite obviously has no majority
in the Senate," Angelino Alfano, secretary of Berlusconi's
People of Freedom (PDL) party told RAI 3 state television.
With the economy mired in recession and unemployment,
especially among the young, at record levels, social tensions
exacerbated by the crisis were reflected in the huge vote in
February for Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.
At the same time, Italy's 2-trillion-euro public debt
remains vulnerable to the kind of bond market volatility which
panicked investors and brought the euro zone to the brink of
collapse during the financial crisis of 2011.
Saturday's vote was the first piece of parliamentary
business since the election and despite the handful of 5-Star
Senators who voted for Grasso, it gave little sign that the
parties were ready to work together.
Alfano said the only alternative to new elections was an
accord between the centre-left and the PDL but said his party
would demand in exchange to be able to nominate a president of
the Republic to replace Napolitano whose mandate ends on May 15.
"We would propose a person of great prestige, absolutely
acceptable to the left as well," he said, but declined to name
Bersani's attempts to court the 5-Star Movement have been
rebuffed by its fiery leader, who rejects any deal and who was
angered by the mini rebellion in his party on Saturday,
demanding that those who voted for Grasso should "take the
However the PD leader has been equally quick to reject any
deal with Silvio Berlusconi, who is battling trials on charges
of tax fraud and paying for sex with a minor as well as a
separate investigation into accusations of political bribery.
Bersani said on Sunday that an alliance with the right would
be inherently unstable and akin to putting "a flimsy lid on a
"At this moment, political agreements made in advance would
not work. The conditions aren't there," he said.