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Italy's president says he won't stand down early to help end gridlock

By Livia Borghese and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
March 30, 2013 -- Updated 1358 GMT (2158 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Giorgio Napolitano says he will stay in office till his mandate ends in May
  • He can't call a new eloection because he's within 6 months of the end of his term
  • Italy has been in a political stalemate since elections last month
  • Center-left politician Pier Luigi Bersani was not able to form a government this week

Rome (CNN) -- Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano said Saturday that he will not stand down early, as Italy tries to find a way out of a political deadlock which has prevented it from forming a government since elections last month.

Napolitano's statement followed reports in Italy's main newspapers Saturday that suggested he might resign early to help find a speedy resolution to the stalemate.

The president's term is due to end on May 15. The issue is that, under the constitution, the Italian president cannot dissolve parliament and call for new elections in the last 6 months of his mandate.

Napolitano said that rather than standing down, he would appoint two groups, with members from different professional and political backgrounds, which would formulate specific proposals on different issues -- and try to gain the approval of the country's political parties.

Pasquale Cascella, the president's spokesman, said these groups would be "facilitators of the political solution, a model already adopted by countries like Belgium and Holland."

Napolitano is likely to announce the names of the group members on Saturday, Cascella said.

Italy has been laboring in a state of political uncertainty since February's elections left a three-way split between the right, the left and the wild-card party of Beppe Grillo.

Just over a week ago, Napolitano asked center-left politician Pier Luigi Bersani to form a government -- but he was unable to do so.

Hobbled economy

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.

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 Livia Borghese reported from Italy and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. Per Nyberg contributed to this report.

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