Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has put and end to speculation that he might quit before his term is over. Rumors had circulated that he would stand down to sidestep constitutional barriers to fresh elections.
The Italian president on Saturday said he would remain in power until the end of his mandate in May, ruling out any possibility of an early exit to help break the political deadlock.
In doing so, Napolitano quashed speculation that he would trigger a constitutional change that would allow fresh elections to take place.
While the 87-year-old acknowledged the "problems the country is going through," he said he would continue to "exercise my mandate until the end."
Napolitano said he would keep working with parliamentarians to try to achieve a majority government, with no single party able to achieve a majority.
Earlier, Italy's major newspapers had suggested Napolitano might step down to get around constitutional provisions that stop a president from calling elections in the last months.
"I will continue until the last day of my mandate to do as my sense of national responsibility suggests, without hiding from the country the difficulties that I am still facing," Napolitano said.
The president said he would ask two groups of experts to come up with proposals for institutional and economic reforms and that the government would remain under the leadership of outgoing technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti.
No obvious solution
Napolitano met the heads of major parties on Friday to seek a way to end the political stalemate that has developed. So far it has proved impossible for any party to cobble together a majority, with all potential partners entrenched in their own positions.
Sources close to the situation on Saturday told the news agency Reuters that Napolitano was examining the option of resigning, just to get around constitutional provisions that would have stopped him from ordering a general election as his mandate draws to an end.
Pier Luigi Bersani's center-left coalition secured the most votes in the February elections and his party controls Italy's lower house. However, he was unable to gain a majority in the upper house, the Senate.
Bersani rejected the idea of a coalition with center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi to form a broad-based coalition. The third largest force in parliament is comedian Beppe Grillo's populist 5-Star Movement. Grillo has ruled out the possibility of joining a Bersani-led coalition.
rc/hc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)