by Marzia De Giuli
ROME, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The election campaign for Itlian premiership seems to be reshaping alliances among power contenders in the crisis-hit country, which is approaching next month's crucial vote amid feisty electoral debate.
On Thursday, local media highlighted heated talks between poll favorite Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the Democratic Party (PD), and caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti who has taken the helm at a new centrist coalition.
Bersani said in a television interview on Wednesday that he would ask for Monti's support after the PD wins the 24-25 Feb. election, but hours later the economist and former European Commissioner replied that it was "premature" to speak of alliances with the center-left coalition.
The Bersani invitation annoyed the secretary of the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) Angelino Alfano, who could stand as the candidate for premiership of the party founded by former premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Alfano claimed the Bersani statement indicated that Monti and the PD were collaborating despite the outgoing premier's insistence that he is an alternative to the right and the left.
While the center-left is practically certain to win the parliament lower house, the real battleground will be in the Senate contest, as the current electoral system awards Senate seat bonuses to the coalition that wins in each individual region.
This means Bersani would only have to be defeated in populous parts of Italy to forgo a majority in the upper house, even if he wins all remaining regions.
Should the center-left, which is formed by PD and the more radical Left, Ecology and Freedom party (SEL), not be able to solidify a majority in the Senate, it would likely have to seek a deal with Monti after the vote, in order to produce a durable government able to consolidate progress in implementing growth-oriented policies.
But though the most probable outcome is a "left-center coalition composed by the PD-SEL plus the Monti group" as highlighted by foremost experts, it is clear that Monti's influence -- and thus ability to center the government policies around his pro-Europe and pro-reform "agenda" -- would be larger the more PD loses in the Senate.
The way to undermine PD majority in the upper house is making the victory of PdL-Northern League coalition, a long-standing alliance resumed earlier this week, easier in those regions of Italy that are traditional strongholds of the center-right.
According to a survey by Ipsos pollster, should the Bersani alliance lose two or three regions among Lombardy, Veneto, Campania and Sicily which are seen as "the Ohio of Italy," the Monti group could even replace SEL in the Senate, the financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reported.
A "determining" element of this complex political scenario is Monti's recent decision to support the candidacy of former Milan Mayor Gabriele Albertini both for seats in the upper house and as the Lombardy president in regional elections, noted the Huffington Post Italia online newspaper.
Given that the PdL-League candidate for Lombardy presidency Roberto Maroni is supposed to win, Albertini's votes would have the only effect to impact on weakening the PD in the northern business region and therefore in the Senate.
The Monti move to support Albertini has "made the alarm bell ring at the PD headquarters" because it means a "war declaration" to Bersani, the Huffington Post Italia wrote.
Monti hit back in a radio interview saying that he believed that all leaders "have to take sides in the election campaign."