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Can rivals come together to form Italian government?

By CNN Staff
March 22, 2013 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
Democratic party leader Pier Luigi Bersani gives a press conference on March 22, 2013 at the presidential palace in Rome.
Democratic party leader Pier Luigi Bersani gives a press conference on March 22, 2013 at the presidential palace in Rome.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New try to form government
  • Can rivals get along?
  • Italy mired in recession

(CNN) -- Four weeks after inconclusive elections left Italy without a functioning government, Italy's president on Friday asked center-left politician Pier Luigi Bersani to try to form one.

The decision came after meetings this week between political leaders and ceremonial president Giorgio Napolitano, as they tried to determine what to do after February's elections left a three-way split between the right, the left and the wild-card party of Beppe Grillo.

Bersani fared the best in the February elections by leading a leftist coalition to a small majority in the lower house of parliament. But he was unable to win a majority in the Senate, where it counts.

Who's who in Italy's political turmoil?
Election leaves Italy deadlocked

Instead, power in the Senate was divided between Bersani and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition, anchored by his party, Popolo della Liberta, or People of Freedom.

Bersani and Berlusconi are archrivals who indicated they would not work together.

The post-election gridlock has helped to hobble Italy's economy. After the elections failed to produce a government, international ratings agency Fitch downgraded Italy's credit rating from A- to BBB+ and warned of further risks if political uncertainty continues and reforms and austerity measures are stalled.

The nation is in its longest recession in 20 years. Its economy -- Europe's third-largest with a government debt the Treasury Ministry puts at $2.6 trillion -- shrank by 0.9% in the fourth quarter of 2012, Eurobarometer says.

CNN's Hada Messia and Journalist Barbie Latza Nadeau contributed to this report.

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