18 Mar 2013

Italian leaders continue struggle to form government

10:13 am on 18 March 2013

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano appealed to political leaders on Sunday to work together to form a government, but pressure still grew for a new poll after last month's deadlocked election.

The threat of months of political instability following the inconclusive ballot has triggered warnings across Europe that Italy cannot afford to delay urgent reforms to shore up its massive public debt and boost its sickly economy, Reuters reports.

Mr Napolitano is due to begin consultations with political leaders on Wednesday to see if there is any chance of establishing a government after the election which left parliament split between three deeply opposed forces.

Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), won control of the lower house but fell short in the Senate leaving him dependent on the support of his rivals if he is to form a government.

The appointment of the speakers was parliament's first act since the February election and the narrow victory in that vote by the centre-left alliance has underlined how hard it will be to form a stable government.

After a tense day in parliament, the centre-left candidates Laura Boldrini and Piero Grasso, a former anti-mafia magistrate, were elected as speakers of the lower house and Senate.

Other parties had ruled out accepting the posts in exchange for supporting a Bersani-led government.

With no clear majority in the Senate, Democratic Party (PD) leader Bersani had to rely on abstentions and a handful of votes from other groups, including Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and centrists led by Prime Minister Mario Monti. Mr Grasso still did not get an absolute majority in the upper house.