Bloomberg News

Italy’s Lobbies Push Bersani to Make Deal With Berlusconi

March 25, 2013

Pier Luigi Bersani, the Italian prime minister hopeful facing a shortfall in parliamentary support, was encouraged by business and labor lobbies to seek a deal with political adversaries, including Silvio Berlusconi.

“We have to form a government, form it at all costs,” Raffaele Bonanni, general secretary of labor union CISL, told reporters after meeting Bersani in Rome today. That perspective was shared by Carlo Sangalli, chairman of retail lobby group Confcommercio, who exited a meeting with Bersani and said the creation of an administration is “an absolute necessity.”

Italian lawmakers are under pressure to put aside their rivalries and form a government capable of confronting the country’s recession and prevent fallout from the financial crisis in Cyprus. Bersani, a former communist and ex-industry minister, has previously refused to compromise with Berlusconi and his People of Liberty party, or PDL.

The possibility of a so-called grand coalition government was invoked by President Giorgio Napolitano on March 22 when he gave Bersani the mandate to negotiate with rivals in search of a majority. The inconclusive Feb. 24-25 parliamentary elections gave Bersani a majority in Italy’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, while splitting the Senate into three blocks.

‘Mission Impossible’

“Numbers in the Senate suggest that his goal of forming a coalition without Silvio Berlusconi’s PDL is a political mission impossible,” Riccardo Barbieri, chief European economist at Mizuho International Plc, said in a report. “Bersani appears to be moving toward the only viable solution, namely a coalition agreement including the PDL that will also involve a deal on the election of Italy’s new president.”

Bersani is meeting with lobbyists and the national assembly of his Democratic Party. He’ll begin consultations with rival parties tomorrow.

A deal with Berlusconi would be a reversal for Bersani, who has challenged the 76-year-old billionaire about his criminal convictions. Berlusconi is free from prison pending an appeal of an October tax-fraud sentence and a conviction this month in a wiretapping case. He is also standing trial on unrelated charges of paying for sex with a minor and abusing the power of his office, allegations he has denied.

Milan judges today suspended Berlusconi’s trial pending a supreme court decision, newswire Ansa reported.

Bersani’s attempts to put together a Senate majority without Berlusconi have been stymied by the refusal of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, the third-biggest parliamentary force, to take part in coalitions.

Berlusconi is willing to consider support for a Bersani government if PDL General Secretary Angelino Alfano were made deputy premier, Ansa reported, citing comments by the lawmaker.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net

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


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