1 of 2
Riccardo De Luca, Associated Press
Democratic Party leader Pierluigi Bersani walks past courassier presidential guards after meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome, Thursday, March 28, 2013.

MILAN — Italy remained in political gridlock on Thursday after the center-left leader announced he had failed to form a stable government.

Pier Luigi Bersani, who has been talking with parties since Friday, expressed some bitterness when he told reporters at the president's office in Rome that he found "unacceptable" attempts by some parties to set "preclusions and conditions."

Bersani's shot at forming a stable government able to help Italy out of recession and get Italians back to work was always a long shot. Bersani's coalition controls the lower house, but not the Senate, and inconclusive February elections gave a strong voice to a protest party.

The next move belongs to President Giorgio Napolitan, who will hold a day of consultations on Friday to "personally ascertain the developments possible," said the president's secretary general, Donato Marra.

The failure makes more likely a possible technical government with a well-defined mission to take on urgent tasks to protect the Italian economy

The February elections ended in a three-way gridlock involving Bersani's center-left forces, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right forces, and the anti-establishment protest movement founded by comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo.

Old animosities and a hardline left-wing of his party meant forced Bersani to rule out an alliance with Berlusconi's center-right forces — a sort of grand coalition that Napolitano clearly favored. And Grillo's 5 Star Movement made clear that it wouldn't back Bersani or any established party — despite Bersani's appeal to responsibility during a meeting Wednesday.

The 5 Star Movement's apparent intransigence makes a way forward difficult. It refuses steadfastly to vote confidence in any government that it does not run, and the Italian constitution requires a vote of confidence for a government to officially take office.

The movement on Thursday proposed that Italy could continue under the caretaker government of Mario Monti, allowing the newly elected parliament to take on some urgent tasks. It was unclear if Napolitano would find that acceptable, or even if Monti would want to stay on.

Monti, whose technical government enacted emergency measures to help protect Italy from the sovereign debt crisis after Berlusconi stepped down in 2011, has been under pressure over his government's flip-flop over the fate of two Italian marines charged with murder in India. It first announced the pair would not go back to face trial after being allowed home temporarily, but then sent them back anyway fearing international isolation over the move.

His decision to run in the elections, finishing fourth with a dismal 10 percent of the vote, also has sapped his authority as a technical figure.