Berlusconi’s 'amateur' party protests against election exclusion
Italy's ruling People of Freedom party has urged its supporters to take to the streets on Thursday after a series of blunders disqualified it from two of this month’s regional elections.
Candidates from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PDL) will not be allowed to contest the polls in Lombardy, his political home turf, and the Lazio region, which includes Rome.
The bungle in Lazio occurred when a party member missed the deadline to register for the March 28-29 regional elections.
A furious Berlusconi has vented his anger at “amateur” party officials, whose blunder could hand a victory to the left-wing opposition in two of Italy’s most important regions.
Renata Polverini, the PDL candidate for president of the Lazio region, has called for a demonstration in Rome on Thursday afternoon, after a first court appeal failed to reintroduce her list on Tuesday. “They want a trial of strength from the streets, we will give it to them,” she told reporters. “We will be ever so many.”
The party has launched a court appeal against the decision.
The March 28-29 elections are seen as a test for Berlusconi, whose personal ratings are waning after a torrid year, that has seen him embroiled in alleged sex scandals, sued for divorce by his wife of 20 years, facing two corruption trials and be physically assaulted.
In Berlusconi’s home region of Lombardy, a conservative stronghold, the PDL list was declared void because more than 500 of the required 3,500 signatures were ruled invalid. A recount is taking place on Thursday.
Polverini appealed to Italy's president, Giorgio Napolitano, to intervene over “this bureaucratic problem”. Napolitano refused, saying that this “shambles” was a matter for the tribunals.
In a separate controversy, the board of the state-controlled broadcaster RAI voted to suspend all political talk shows -- some of which are often critical of Berlusconi -- in the run-up to the polls.