Italy’s Left Issues Ultimatum, Threatens Reelections

Italy’s left-wing leader calls on the anti-establishment Five Star Movement’s Beppe Grillo to “say what he wants.”

Pier Luigi Bersani addresses a Democratic Party congress in Rome, January 17
Pier Luigi Bersani addresses a Democratic Party congress in Rome, January 17 (Ilaria Prili)

Italy’s left-wing leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, has issued an ultimatum to Beppe Grillo, whose anti-establishment Five Star Movement prevented the Southern European country’s largest left- and right-wing parties from winning an absolute majority in parliament last month.

In an interview on RAI state television, Bersani, a former industry and economic development minister who was the left’s prime ministerial candidate in February’s election, reiterated his opposition to either forming a “grand coalition” with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing party or propping up another technocrat government like the one led by outgoing premier Mario Monti.

Bersani’s Democrats commands a majority of the seats in the lower chamber of parliament but not the Senate, where Berlusconi holds almost as many seats.

Grillo has 54 senators, who could give Bersani a majority.

Ultimatum

Grillo “must say what he wants, otherwise we all go home,” Bersani said, urging the man who tapped into Italians’ frustrations about their political class to support a series of policy proposals that would enable Bersani to continue Monti’s reforms and begin an overhaul of the voting system.

The day after last week’s election, however, Grillo argued it was “not time to 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.

Snap elections?

Grillo may prefer snap elections over joining a coalition when it could boost support for his Five Star Movement.

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

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