Italian Left Restless After Disappointing Election Result

Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani’s former rival criticizes his efforts in forming a government.

Pier Luigi Bersani addresses a Democratic Party congress in Varese, Italy, October 9, 2010
Pier Luigi Bersani addresses a Democratic Party congress in Varese, Italy, October 9, 2010 (Francesca Minonne)

Florence mayor Matteo Renzi has questioned his party’s leader Pier Luigi Bersani’s attempts to form a government in Italy less than a month after the left failed to secure a majority in both houses of parliament.

Bersani’s Democratic Party won a majority of the seats in the lower chamber of parliament in February but not in the Senate, where former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing alliance claimed nearly as many seats.

Bersani has ruled out a grand coalition with the conservatives and courted Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement instead with a promise to present a program that his members could support.

“Dead man talking”

Days after the election, Grillo rejected any “talk of alliances” and described Bersani as a “dead man talking” who had the “arrogance” to ask for his support after berating him during the campaign.

But Grillo also said, “We’re not against the world,” and promised to work with any party that adopts his proposals, which range from anti-graft legislation to green energy policies.

Renzi’s challenge

In a television interview on Saturday, Renzi criticized his leader for offering lawmakers from the Five Star Movement positions of power and tempting them to change sides rather than challenge them with convincing policy proposals of his own.

Earlier in the week, Renzi had told Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper that “with some of my ideas, starting with the willingness to talk to disillusioned center-right voters,” many of whom lined up behind Berlusconi again last month, “perhaps we would have won the election.”

Renzi, a social liberal, challenged the former communist Bersani for the party leadership last year, when he won 40 percent of the votes in a primary election. He is seen as the frontrunner to succeed Bersani if the latter doesn’t manage to form a government and become prime minister.

On Saturday, Renzi suggested there should be another leadership primary if the Five Star Movement refuses to enter a coalition and reelections are needed.

An SWG survey released on Friday shows 28 percent of Italian voters backing Renzi for the prime ministership compared with 14 percent for Bersani and 13 for Grillo.

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