Italy president seeks counsel to end gridlock

Italy president seeks outside counsel to end political gridlock preventing formation of govt

Associated Press

ROME (AP) -- Italy's president on Saturday named 10 outside experts — including a central banker, a constitutional expert, and the head of Italy's statistics agency — to try to help end the political gridlock that has prevented the formation of a government more than a month after inconclusive elections.

The 10 "wise men" will come up with proposals over the next week touching on "institutional, socio-economic and European" measures in hope of reaching a consensus across Italy's bitterly divided political blocs on how to move forward, the president's office said in a statement.

President Giorgio Napolitano's decision to look to outsiders came after Pier Luigi Bersani, whom Napolitano had tapped to try to form a government, announced Thursday he had failed to obtain the consensus necessary.

Italy's Feb. 24-25 elections ended in a three-way gridlock with Bersani's center-left forces, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right forces and the anti-establishment protest movement founded by comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo.

Analysts say Napolitano will most likely ask a figure outside of partisan politics to put together a government that can last long enough to enact economic and electoral reform before new elections are called.

For now, Mario Monti remains Italy's caretaker premier. In his announcement Saturday, Napolitano said the Monti government was still very much "operative" and would be taking urgent economic measures soon.

The outside experts include Enrico Giovannini, president of Italy's statistics agency, Istat; Valerio Onida, who was a judge on Italy's constitutional court; and Salvatore Rossi, deputy director general of the Bank of Italy. Politicians and heads of parliament commissions are also included in the group.

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