* Head of state due to announce decision on government
* Centre-left leader proposes broad alliance, rivals dubious
* Outside figure could be named to try to form government
By James Mackenzie
ROME, March 22 Italian parties reacted
sceptically on Friday to centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani's
call for a government backed by all political forces,
complicating President Giorgio Napolitano's efforts to end the
stalemate left by last month's election.
Napolitano has ended consultations with the parties to try
to form a government after the election which gave the
centre-left control of the lower house but left it short of a
majority in the Senate and thus unable to govern alone.
He is expected to announce later on Friday whether he has
decided to give Bersani a mandate to try to muster support from
other parties, or has opted for some other solution, such as
asking a respected outside figure to try to build a broad
With no party holding a majority in parliament, Italy - the
euro zone's third largest economy - faces the prospect of weeks
of uncertainty just as the bank crisis in Cyprus has revived
fears of a renewed bout of financial market turmoil.
Bersani said late on Thursday that he hoped to be able to
present a limited programme of economic and institutional
reforms that could be backed by all forces in parliament, but he
faces resistance from the other parties.
"The reality is that whoever gets a mandate to form a new
government has to be able to show they have a stable political
majority already in place. And at this moment, Bersani can't be
that person," said Renato Brunetta, the lower house leader of
Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party (PDL).
If Bersani cannot gather enough support, Italian media have
speculated that Napolitano could ask Senate speaker and former
top anti-mafia judge Pietro Grasso to try to form a government.
He has said he would be willing to serve the state in any way he
However the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement led by former
comic Beppe Grillo has repeatedly said it will not back a
government led by any other party, leaving Bersani needing a
deal with the centre-right if he is to have a chance of success.
Former Prime Minister Berlusconi, who has been lifted by
recent opinion polls showing his support is rising, says the
inconclusive election result shows that Italy has not made a
clear choice and that the centre-left does not have the right to
He has called for a cross-party coalition with Bersani's
Democratic Party (PD) that would give his group a share in
government and the right to decide the next president to succeed
Napolitano, whose term ends in May.
If no durable accord can be reached, Italy faces a return to
the polls within months, delaying any prospect of substantial
reform to its stagnant economy, now stuck in its longest
recession in 20 years.
Napolitano, the head of state, has given no hint of what he
intends to do beyond telling the speakers of parliament that it
was "absolutely necessary" to form a government, suggesting he
will try to avoid early elections if at all possible.
"President Napolitano did not make his intentions known in
our meeting yesterday," Luigi Zanda, head of the PD's Senate
group, told state radio RAI on Friday.
Financial markets have been watching the political
uncertainty closely although there has so far been no sign of
the panic that gripped investors during the 2011 crisis which
brought down the last Berlusconi government.
The main barometer of confidence, the spread between yields
on Italian and German 10-year government bonds, has risen since
the beginning of the year by some 20 basis points to 320 points,
well short of the level of more than 550 seen in late 2011.
However Italy's 2-trillion-euro public debt is vulnerable to
any bond market turbulence and public finances have deteriorated
sharply during the recession, despite the tax hikes and spending
cuts imposed by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti.
Monti's caretaker government cut its economic forecasts on
Thursday and now sees gross domestic product contracting by 1.3
percent this year following the 2.4 percent decline in 2012. The
budget deficit is expected to hit 2.9 percent of output, just
within EU limits.