May 19, 2013
Italian president seeks way out of political stalemate
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano began consultations with political leaders to try to find a way of forming a government after the deadlocked election last month which left no party with a majority in parliament.
Senate speaker Pietro Grasso said after meeting Napolitano the president was determined to reach an accord, saying there was "an absolute necessity to give the country a government".
Napolitano would take "all roads possible", he said.
Italy's political stalemate and the prospect of months of uncertainty has created alarm across Europe just as the standoff over bank deposits in Cyprus reawakened fears that the euro zone debt crisis could flare up again.
Center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who won a majority in the lower house but not in the Senate, commands the largest bloc in parliament but cannot govern unless he has support from one of the other parties.
However, there has been no sign that an accord is possible with either former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right alliance, the second biggest force in parliament, or the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement led by ex-comic Beppe Grillo, which holds the balance of power.
If no agreement can be struck between parties that are bitterly divided, Italy faces the prospect of a brief period under a caretaker government followed by a return to the polls, possibly as early as June.
Napolitano also meets minor parties, including Prime Minister Mario Monti's centrist group on Wednesday before the main meetings on Thursday when he sees representatives from the 5-Star Movement, Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party and Bersani's Democratic Party (PD).
Bersani, 61, received a small boost at the weekend when his candidates were elected the speakers of the two houses of parliament, despite the center left's lack of a majority in the upper house.
Both speakers announced late on Tuesday that they would take a 30 percent wage cut and urged other parliamentarians to do the same, a move that followed an example set by 5-Star members elected as local officials in Sicily last year who gave up most of their salaries and used the savings to fund small businesses.