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Italy’s Bersani seeks allies to break electoral deadlock

AFP-JIJI

Italy entered uncharted waters Saturday as center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani scrambled to find a parliamentary majority even though his coalition failed to get enough votes in elections that have left the country in a deadlock.

The leftist was given the go-ahead by President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday to try to win over lawmakers from rival parties after his coalition won a majority in the lower house but not in the upper house in last month’s voting — a first in Italy’s postwar history.

A former school teacher who joined the then-powerful Italian Communist Party as a young man, the 61-year-old Bersani is the son of an auto mechanic and is known for his down-to-earth style.

Bersani may try to woo lawmakers from the Five Star Movement, a new protest party that scored a stunning success in the Feb. 24 to 25 polls, winning a quarter of the vote and coming in third after Bersani and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right.

Napolitano all but excluded the possibility of a “grand coalition” between Bersani and his archrival, Berlusconi.

Any government would require a majority in both houses of Parliament under the Italian system.

Should Bersani fail, analysts say another scenario would be a technocratic government similar to the departing one led by Prime Minister Mario Monti, a former EU commissioner and economics professor.

Such an arrangement would likely be short-lived, analysts warn, and Italy would be forced to hold repeat elections.