Berlusconi rejects new technocrat government for Italy

Silvio Berlusconi at the Italian presidential palace in Rome, 29 March
Image caption Mr Berlusconi is among several party leaders meeting the president

Italian centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi says he is against the idea of a new technocratic government for Italy like that led by Mario Monti.

Instead, he said he was ready to back a coalition with centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, to end the deadlock since the February election.

But Mr Bersani, whose bloc won a narrow lead in the polls, has ruled out a coalition with the right.

If no government is formed, fresh elections may be called.

The stalemate is delaying reforms which could help revive Italy's recession-hit, debt-laden economy, which is the third-biggest in the eurozone.

Italy's political establishment was rocked by the electoral success of a protest movement, Five Star, which won a quarter of the vote on a platform attacking the parties of both right and left.

Mr Monti's technocratic government, formed in November 2011, remains in office until a new elected government is formed. He has said he "can't wait" to leave office.

'Tragic' technocrats

Speaking after talks with President Giorgio Napolitano, Mr Berlusconi said he believed there was scope for agreement on action to address the economic crisis.

He said he would back a coalition made up of the left, right and centre.

Any new government must be made up of political parties, "given the tragic experience" of the Monti government, the People of Freedom party leader said.

Mr Berlusconi's ally Roberto Maroni, leader of the right-wing Northern League, also rejected another technocratic government, saying it would be better to hold another election.

Recent opinion polls suggest Mr Berlusconi and Mr Maroni have, between them, a narrow lead over the centre-left.

Mr Bersani has already tried and failed to form a new government, whether as a coalition or as a minority government.

"Only a mentally ill person could have a burning desire to govern right now," he said on Wednesday at a meeting with Five Star politicians.

Five Star, led by former comedian Beppe Grillo, has made clear it will not back any government led by either the centre-left or centre-right.

Mr Grillo posted an entry on his blog this week in which he called mainstream politicians including Mr Berlusconi and Mr Bersani "old whoremongers".

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