http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-03-27/monti-rushes-to-the-exit-as-bersani-seeks-insane-person-s-job

Bloomberg News

Monti Rushes to Exit, Bersani Seeks ‘Insane’ Person’s Job

March 28, 2013

Italy's Incoming Prime Minister

Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of Italy's Democratic Party and prime minister-designate, speaks at a news conference at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on March 22, 2013. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti can’t wait to quit. Pier Luigi Bersani, who has first shot at replacing Monti, said only a lunatic would want to.

“Believe me, only an insane person would want to govern at this moment,” Bersani said yesterday in a meeting with rival lawmakers as he sought to persuade them to support his bid to form a government.

The contradiction is characteristic of Italian politics at a time when the economy is stuck in recession and the crisis in Cyprus is pushing up government borrowing costs. Parliament was deadlocked by inconclusive elections last month and Bersani, after nearly a week of talks, has given no signal that he can break the impasse. He will report to President Giorgio Napolitano today with the results of his negotiations.

The incumbent has indicated his desire for a breakthrough.

“This government, and I’ll say it in the most respectful way possible, can’t wait to have its mandate rescinded,” Monti said yesterday in a speech to parliament.

The leadership vacuum has delayed the approval of stimulus measures and weakened the country’s defenses as the euro-region financial crisis descends on Cyprus. The economy, which has contracted for six straight quarters, is projected to shrink again this year, while the market turmoil pushes up government borrowing costs.

Bond Yields

Italian 10-year bond yields rose 6 basis points to 4.83 percent at 10:39 a.m. in Rome, bringing the gain this week to 31 basis points. The difference in yield with similar-maturity German bunds widened 7 basis points to 3.58 percentage points, the biggest gap since Nov. 14.

The cost of insuring against losses on Italian sovereign debt climbed to the highest since Nov. 16, with credit-default swaps on the nation’s bonds rising 13 basis points to 309 basis points.

Established politicians like Bersani, 61, have distanced themselves from the appearance of ambition as public disgust with parliament grows. During the election campaign and in the weeks after the Feb. 24-25 vote, Bersani repeatedly used the word “responsibility” to describe his motivation. Monti, a former university president, refers to his entry into politics as a personal “sacrifice.”

“It’s clear that only those without the whiff of career ambitions can get ahead in this moment,” said Nicola Marinelli, who oversees $180 million at Glendevon King Asset.

Even Silvio Berlusconi, a three-time premier, took a step back during the campaign and said he would accept the position of finance minister if he won the election.

All that came amid the success of 64-year-old former satirist Beppe Grillo, whose Five Star Movement won more votes than any single party and who peppers his speeches with calls to sweep out the establishment.

Bersani has so far failed to entice his main rivals. Vito Crimi, Five Star’s head in the Senate, said yesterday his party would vote “no” to any confidence vote on a Bersani government. Angelino Alfano, general secretary of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party, said he had rejected Bersani’s plan and a new proposal was needed.

“They can’t hold us back any longer,” Grillo said last month when the election results were announced. “They might go on another seven or eight months and produce a disaster, but we will be watching and working to keep it under control.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Frye in New York at afrye@bloomberg.net; Chiara Vasarri in Rome at cvasarri@bloomberg.net

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


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