Italy's would-be Prime Minister Pier Luigi Bersani says job is 'only for mentally ill'

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Italy’s would-be Prime Minister has said that “only a mentally ill person” would want the job right now, as the eurozone’s third biggest democracy continues to tie itself in knots.

Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who won the general election last month but who lacks a vital majority in the upper house of parliament, admitted as much after another fruitless meeting with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), whose co-operation he needs to govern.

“Only a mentally ill person could have an itching desire to govern right now,” Mr Bersani said. “I want things to be clear: I am ready to assume a huge amount of responsibility, but I ask everyone else to all take on a little bit themselves.”

In order to form a government, Mr Bersani needs to be confident he can win the mandatory confidence votes in both houses of parliament. But instead of offering to vote with the centre-left in the Senate confidence motion, M5S appears set on having all of its radicals demands, such as decimating MPs’ salaries and fighting corruption, met first.

And the movement’s firebrand leader Beppe Grillo resorted to his usual barrage of insults after the encounter. On his blog he called Mr Bersani and other political establishment figures as “whoremongers”.

Without progress by Easter, the head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, may call for fresh elections in June.