Italy was locked in a damaging political impasse yesterday as rival party leaders attempt to form a coalition government following inconclusive elections, with the rest of Europe looking anxiously on.
An initiative by Italian leftist Pier Luigi Bersani on Friday to form a minority government was swiftly turned down by the rogue party whose votes he most needs.
The Democratic Party leader said he wanted to form “a government of change” that would focus on key reforms and issues that the party has in common with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
“I am calling it a government of change, which I would take the responsibility of leading,” the Democratic Party leader told La Repubblica daily after his party won the most votes, but failed to win a majority in elections earlier in the week.
“The country needs a government. We cannot be adrift in front of Europe and the markets,” he said.
However, in a post on his popular blog, Five Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo said that his party would not take part in any “horse-trading.”
“This is the usual whorish way of doing politics,” said the comedian-turned-populist firebrand, whose party won a quarter of the votes in the lower house of parliament.
However, not everyone in Grillo’s movement agrees with him, and the idea of a loose kind of alliance with the Democratic Party is being debated.
Italy’s new parliament has to meet by March 15 at the latest, after which formal talks with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano are scheduled to begin on the formation of a new government.
Bersani said his government would have key aims, including easing austerity, creating jobs, helping the poorest and cutting government costs — echoing at least some of the demands made by the grassroots, Internet-based Five Star Movement.
However, since the center-left coalition did not gain majorities in both houses of parliament, a new government of this type would depend on the support of other parties in the upper house — an arrangement analysts warn would prove unstable at a time of acute economic crisis for Italy.
New official figures out on Thursday showed Italy’s economy shrank by 2.4 percent last year and public debt rose to 127 percent of GDP from 120.8 percent in 2011 — the highest level in the eurozone after Greece.
The Fitch ratings agency warned that the political deadlock was adding downward pressure on Italy’s sovereign credit rating.
“It has the potential to disrupt policy making and reduce policy continuity, and to weigh further on an already weakening economy,” it said in a statement.
Markets were jittery in trading on Friday, with the Milan index plunging 1.54 percent — the worst performer among major European stock markets.