Italy’s Left Issues Ultimatum, Threatens Reelections

Italy’s left-wing leader calls on political activist Beppe Grillo to “say what he wants.”

Pier Luigi Bersani addresses a conference of the Partito Democratico in Varese, Italy, October 9, 2010
Pier Luigi Bersani addresses a conference of the Partito Democratico in Varese, Italy, October 9, 2010 (Francesca Minonne)

Italy’s left-wing leader Pier Luigi Bersani issued an ultimatum on Sunday to comedian and political activist 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 forming a “grand coalition” with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Il Popolo della Libert√† as well as supporting another technocrat government as the one led by outgoing premier Mario Monti through last year.

Bersani’s Partito Democratico commands a majority of the seats in the lower chamber of parliament but not the Senate where Berlusconi’s alliance holds almost as many seats. Grillo has 54 senators who could give Bersani the necessary majority to form a left-wing government.

Grillo “must say what he wants, otherwise we all go home,” Bersani suggested, 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 some of the economic reforms Monti that initiated and begin an overhaul of the country’s voting system.

The day after last week’s election, however, Grillo argued that 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. He may prefer reelections over joining a ruling coalition when it could boost support for his Five Star Movement further.

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.

If there are new parliamentary elections, they are unlikely to be called before Italians elect a new president in April.