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Originally published Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 11:35 AM

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Italy's center-left leader fails to form govt

Italy remained in political gridlock Thursday after the center-left leader announced he had failed to form a government.

Associated Press

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MILAN —

Italy remained in political gridlock Thursday after the center-left leader announced he had failed to form a government.

Pier Luigi Bersani, who has been talking with parties since Friday, expressed some bitterness when he told reporters at the president's office in Rome that he found "unacceptable" attempts by some parties to set "preclusions and conditions."

Bersani's attempt at forming a stable government able to help Italy out of recession and get Italians back to work was always a long shot. Bersani's coalition controls the lower house, but not the Senate, and inconclusive February elections gave strong voice to a protest party.

The next move belongs to President Giorgio Napolitano, who will hold a day of consultations Friday to "personally ascertain the developments possible," the president's secretary general, Donato Marra, said.

The failure makes more likely a possible technical government with a well-defined mission to take on urgent tasks, which include rewriting the election law, and push through some measures that have broader acceptance, like cutting political costs.

"I do believe now that the president will try to find a personality who is not so political as Bersani, possibly coming out of the left, and see if that person can find some sort of agreement to get the backing" from both the center-left and the center-right, said Giovanni Orsina, a professor of political science at Rome's LUISS University. "That is the only solution at the moment."

The 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.

Old animosities and a hardline left wing of his party forced Bersani to rule out an alliance with Berlusconi's center-right forces - a sort of grand coalition that Napolitano clearly favored. And Grillo's 5 Star Movement made clear that it wouldn't back Bersani or any established party - despite Bersani's appeal to responsibility during a meeting Wednesday.

The 5 Star Movement's apparent intransigence makes a way forward difficult. It refuses steadfastly to vote confidence in any government that it does not run, and the Italian constitution requires a vote of confidence for a government to officially take office.

The movement on Thursday proposed that Italy could continue under the caretaker government of Mario Monti, allowing the newly elected parliament to take on some urgent tasks. It was unclear if Napolitano would find that acceptable, if Monti would want to stay on, or if such a possibility were even constitutional.

Orsina said there is a limit to how long a government can continue without a vote of confidence, and this caretaker government was formed provisionally until a new government could be formed. "If we say it is not a provisional solution, that it is more permanent, I think Monti should go back to the chambers and ask for confidence," Orsina said.

Monti, whose technical government enacted emergency measures to help protect Italy from the sovereign debt crisis after Berlusconi stepped down in 2011, dissolved parliament last December after Berlusconi pulled support, paving the way to elections. More recently, he has been under pressure over his government's flip-flop over the fate of two Italian marines charged with murder in India. It first announced earlier this month the pair would not go back to face trial after being allowed home temporarily, but then sent them back anyway fearing international isolation over the move.

His decision to run in the elections, finishing fourth with a dismal 10 percent of the vote, also has sapped his authority as a technical figure.

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