Bloomberg News

Grillo Euro-Skeptic Party Seeks Mandate for Government

March 21, 2013

Five Star Movement Leader Beppe Grillo

The Five Star Movement's leader Beppe Grillo is pushing ahead with his campaign promise to wrest political power from established parties and re-evaluate positions, like euro membership, that previously enjoyed near universal support in Parliament. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Beppe Grillo asked Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to give his party a mandate to form a government as his deputies shunned an alliance with rivals and restated their euro-skeptic views.

“The Five Star Movement asked for a full mandate to present its government agenda in parliament,” Roberta Lombardi, the party’s chief whip in the lower house of parliament, said today after she, Grillo and an ally from the Senate met with Napolitano in the presidential palace in Rome.

Grillo, 64, is pushing ahead with his campaign promise to wrest political power from established parties and re-evaluate positions, like euro membership, that previously enjoyed near universal support in Parliament. His resistance to compromise hurts rival Pier Luigi Bersani, who was counting on some support from Five Star to claim the premiership, and boosts Silvio Berlusconi’s push for influence over the next government.

Napolitano, 87, is in his second day of consultations with political leaders and needs a deal to forge a government after inconclusive elections Feb. 24-25 left no party with a clear path to a majority in the Senate. Berlusconi, a three-time former premier and head of the second-biggest force in the upper house, met Napolitano after Grillo and said it was time to cut Five Star out of the negotiations.

Taking Responsibility

“There are three forces of an equal size, and one isn’t available for collaboration,” Berlusconi told reporters after seeing the head of state. His People of Liberty Party and Bersani’s Democratic Party are the only ones left, “and it’s up to us to take responsibility and give the country a government,” he said.

Napolitano will meet with Bersani, a 61-year-old ex- communist, at 6 p.m. in the final scheduled appointment. Bersani, who controls the biggest Senate force and a majority in the lower house, may fail to secure a mandate if he can’t convince Napolitano that he has enough votes in the upper house.

Other possible candidates include Senate Speaker Pietro Grasso, a Bersani ally and former anti-mafia prosecutor, Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri, Bank of Italy Director General Fabrizio Saccomanni and former European Union commissioner Emma Bonino, daily La Repubblica reported.

Grasso said he is “ready for anything to help the country” when asked by reporters if he was available to accept a mandate to govern, according to newswire AGI. Alessio Pasquini, a spokesman for Grasso, confirmed the comments and said the Senate speaker isn’t asking for the job.

Bersani’s Choice

Bersani has repeatedly refused to renew his alliance with Berlusconi, who was convicted of tax fraud in October. The pact struck by the two leaders in November 2011, which brought Prime Minister Mario Monti to power and imposed austerity on Italy, was repudiated by recession-scarred voters in the election last month. Bersani has instead embraced Grillo’s push to reverse Monti’s tax increases and reduce the cost of politics.

Berlusconi, 76, is free from prison pending an appeal of the tax-fraud conviction, which carried a four-year sentence. He is also standing trial on unrelated charges of paying for sex with a minor and abusing the power of his office. He has denied the allegations in both cases.

Grillo’s deputies today reiterated Five Star’s campaign proposals, including the call for a referendum on euro membership. Other points in the program include expanded unemployment benefits, the abolition of property taxes on primary residences and the elimination of public funding for political parties.

Lombardi said Five Star will focus on boosting its parliamentary influence and may seek to exert oversight of state broadcaster RAI and Italy’s intelligence agency if the party doesn’t get the government mandate from Napolitano.

“If this request isn’t accepted, the Five Star Movement in opposition will ask for the chairmanships of the Copasir and RAI oversight commissions,” Lombardi said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net; Lorenzo Totaro in Rome at ltotaro@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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