* Bersani says would back govt supported also by Berlusconi
* Berlusconi demands share of government with centre-left
* Grillo's 5-Star Movement seeks mandate to govern
* Napolitano to announce next step on Friday
By James Mackenzie and Gavin Jones
ROME, March 21 Italian centre-left leader Pier
Luigi Bersani on Thursday appealed to all parties in parliament
to back a new government, a move that may brighten prospects of
resolving the political deadlock following last month's
After meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano, Bersani
said "all the forces in parliament" should support a government
with a programme of reforms presented by the centre-left.
Asked if this meant he would also welcome the backing of
Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right, an option he has so far
rejected, he said: "Yes, we are appealing to the whole of
parliament to support the changes needed."
Bersani added, however, the centre-right had so far rejected
proposals by his Democratic Party (PD) on issues such as
fighting corruption and legislation on conflicts of interest.
The election gave the alliance of Bersani's PD and the
leftist SEL a majority in the lower house but not in the Senate,
leaving it unable to govern without the support of other
The stalemate has revived fears of a prolonged bout of
instability in the euro zone's third-largest economy just as the
crisis over bank deposits in Cyprus has raised concern of a
fresh bout of financial market turmoil.
Napolitano completed two days of consultations on Thursday
with political party chiefs and said he would announce his
decision on the next step on Friday.
Bersani had previously tried to win support for a government
from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) led by Beppe
Grillo and shunned suggestions he might join forces with
Berlusconi, as the PD did under outgoing technocrat Prime
Minister Mario Monti.
Yet on Thursday, Bersani appeared to have lost patience with
Grillo, who has repeatedly rebuffed him and who holds the
balance of power in parliament.
"We have shown respect for the 5-Star movement's voters but
they have shown no respect for ours," Bersani said.
After meeting the president on Thursday, Berlusconi repeated
his demand that Bersani form a coalition with his conservative
bloc and that Napolitano's successor as head of state should be
from the centre-right. Napolitano's term ends on May 15.
"There are two forces still in play, us and the Democratic
Party, and at this moment the responsibility to give a
government to the country lies with both of us," Berlusconi told
If no agreement can be struck, Italy faces the prospect of a
brief period under a caretaker government before heading for a
new election, possibly as early as June or after the summer.
With the country in deep recession and struggling with
record unemployment and a 2-trillion-euro ($2.6 trillion) debt
pile that remains vulnerable to the kind of financial market
crisis that struck in 2011, business leaders and European
partners are deeply concerned at the stalemate.
Bersani said on Thursday he will present a limited policy
programme focused on institutional reform, fighting corruption
and creating jobs, and seek the backing of parliament.
Grillo's M5S on Thursday asked Napolitano for a mandate of
its own, though it did not say who it would present as prime
minister, and said it would not back any coalition, suggesting
it will reject Bersani's call for unity.
"M5S will not give any confidence vote to political or
pseudo-technocrat governments," Grillo said on his blog.
He rejected one option, widely mooted in Italian newspapers,
that the newly elected speaker of the Senate, former anti-mafia
judge Pietro Grasso, could be asked to lead a government.
Grasso is seen as a potential replacement for Bersani, whose
position has been under threat ever since the election in which
the centre-left threw away a 10 point lead. He said on Thursday
he was "ready to serve for the good of the country".
Napolitano has some room to appoint a technocrat prime
minister from outside the main parties but any government would
need the support of parliament.