Italian President Enlists Special Help on Political Deadlock

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ROME -- Italy's president said Saturday that he would turn to a group of outside advisers to help him end the country's political deadlock, after weeks of inconclusive consultations with political leaders failed to overcome ingrained divisions.

At the same time, President Giorgio Napolitano reassured Italians and international observers that despite the political uncertainty that has left the country without a government for more than a month after national elections, the caretaker government of Prime Minister Mario Monti was still solidly in charge.

"Its productivity" is an "element of concrete certainty" in the current situation, Mr. Napolitano said.

Two groups of advisers will be asked to come up with precise proposals of "an institutional and economic-social character" that can form the basis for a constructive discussion among Italy's fractured political parties, and help to resolve the existing stalemate, Mr. Napolitano told reporters on Saturday.

National elections five weeks ago delivered a Parliament effectively split among three hostile blocks. The center-left coalition has a majority in the lower house but not in the senate, and attempts last week by the center-left leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, to find allies for his government fell flat.

Mr. Napolitano has also been unable to overcome a series of intricate vetoes between the political parties that have scuppered possible alliances. His options are limited because he is in the last weeks of his seven-year mandate, which means that by law he cannot dissolve Parliament and call new elections.

But on Saturday he pledged to do what he could to create the conditions to "unblock" a political standoff "frozen between irreconcilable positions," he said.

The two groups of advisers would draft concrete proposals that would establish the priorities of the future government, Mr. Napolitano said.

The four members of an institutional commission include a constitutional judge, a member of the European Parliament, and lawmakers from the Democratic Party and the People of Liberty party. The economic-social commission includes the president of the National Statistics Agency; the president of Italy's antitrust authority; a board member of the Bank of Italy; a minister in the caretaker government responsible for European issues; and two lawmakers, one from the lower house, one from the senate, who will act as liaisons between the Parliament and the government.

"This is a tool for gaining time," said Sergio Fabbrini, director of the school of government at Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome. And it is a way to broaden consensus for a possible candidate to lead a government put forward by Mr. Napolitano. "We are in a period where a clash is emerging between the ruling elite and the political elite, and it requires a candidate to mediate between the two," Mr. Fabbrini said.

Mr. Napolitano has been under pressure to act quickly as Italy struggles through one of its most difficult economic crises since World War II. Unemployment is at record highs, especially among the country's youth, economic growth has stalled and the ratio between the public debt and G.D.P. is quickly moving toward 130 percent.

Italian lawmakers mostly expressed approval of Mr. Napolitano's plan.

The secretary of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Liberty party, Angelino Alfano, said his party appreciated the president's efforts to find common ground between the parties. But he said his party only saw two possible solutions: a political government involving "all the major political forces" or "a return to the polls."

Even the Five Star Movement, the anti-establishment party that won a quarter of the national vote and has pledged not to support a political government of any stripe, said Mr. Napolitano was going in the right direction. "The chosen path is the one that comes closest to a solution in such a difficult moment," said Claudio Messora, the party spokesman.

Mr. Napolitano did not give a time frame for when the commissions would have to present their findings, suggesting that he might leave the task of forming a government to his successor, who will be chosen by Parliament within the next six weeks. Were the stalemate to continue, his successor could dissolve Parliament and call new elections, as early as June.

"That is the key decision, the selection of the new president, and elections will be closer or further away depending on who is chosen," said Roberto D'Alimonte, a professor of political science at Luiss Guido Carli University.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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