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Europe

Berlusconi ally calls for early elections

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-08-24

Umberto Bossi, the head of the Northern League and the most powerful of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's dwindling number of allies, has called for early elections ahead of a critical confidence vote next month.

REUTERS - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s main coalition ally said early elections were the only way out of Italy’s political crisis, as the premier and his estranged partners kept up an acrimonious war of words.

Berlusconi has challenged former ally Gianfranco Fini’s breakaway group to back a five-point programme at a confidence vote next month or face a vote by December.
 
Fini’s camp retorted at the weekend that it would not accept ultimatums.
 
Umberto Bossi, the outspoken leader of the separatist Northern League party in the ruling coalition, said Italy should now head to the polls, no matter what the outcome of September’s confidence vote.
 
“Berlusconi has said that he has a programme to put to parliament. If they vote in favour, good. Otherwise we go to the polls,” Bossi was quoted as saying by newspapers on Sunday.
 
“I think we must to go the polls either way. It seems unlikely that things can continue like this.”
 
Bossi, whose party is expected to make gains in its home base in Italy’s north if elections are held, later told reporters that an election must be held without delay.
 
Berlusconi also appeared to be preparing his People of Freedom party’s rank and file for the prospect of elections.
 
“We need to reorganise the presence of the People of Freedom on our territory,” he said in an audio message to his Promotori della Liberta group of party activists.
 
“We need to be ready for any eventuality, like that of elections within a short period of time, for example.”
 
"Take it or Leave it"
 
Long-simmering tensions between Fini, the lower house speaker, and Berlusconi culminated in a dramatic split last month that has tipped Italian politics into turmoil.
 
Fini commands the support of 34 deputies and 10 senators, without whom Berlusconi does not have a guaranteed majority in parliament.
 
Verbal sparring between the rival camps escalated over the weekend after Berlusconi was quoted as saying by party members that his five-point agenda was not negotiable and that Fini’s group could “take it or leave it”.
 
Fini’s supporters—who initially welcomed the 10-page programme of measures but were reported to have expressed doubt on some of the judicial reforms included—responded angrily.
 
“Berlusconi’s logic belongs to business circles, not politics,” Italo Bocchino, one of Fini’s top aides, said in an interview published by La Stampa daily on Sunday.
 
“We can’t accept being asked to give 100 percent support to a programme that we haven’t been called to discuss, and which contains things that are not related to the programme.”
 
He warned that the split between the two sides looked irreparable and suggested Fini’s group could form a new political party—a move that Berlusconi had been quoted as saying would be tantamount to betraying voters.
 
Berlusconi last week said surveys he had seen indicated his People of Freedom party and the League could expect to win more than 50 percent support.
 
Bocchino, however, said the polls suggested Berlusconi’s party would lose seats in the lower house to the League and Fini’s group and lose its majority in the Senate.

 

Date created : 2010-08-24

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