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Europe

Former Berlusconi ally urges PM to stand down

©

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-07

Italy's speaker of parliament and a former ally of Silvio Berlusconi has threatened to pull his supporters out of government if the prime minister does not resign. Gianfranco Fini scorned Berlusconi over his latest scandal involving a young woman.

AP - The estranged former ally of Premier Silvio Berlusconi urged him to resign Sunday for the good of the country and begin discussing a new government with a revised legislative agenda.

In a highly anticipated speech, Gianfranco Fini raised the stakes in his feud with Berlusconi, seeking to put the pressure of determining the future of the current government back on the Italian leader.
 
Fini repeatedly attacked Berlusconi, who has been engulfed in a scandal over his ties to an underage Moroccan girl and alleged encounters with a prostitute. Fini said he is still willing to be in an alliance with Berlusconi to spare Italy early elections and shepherd the government to the natural end of its term in 2013. But that would only happen, he said, if the premier agreed to certain conditions, like relaunching the economy and changing Italy’s electoral law.
 
“We can’t go on this way,” Fini told supporters at a rally of his new party, Freedom and Future. “This chapter is over - or it’s about to be.”
 
Fini urged Berlusconi to “make the decision to offer his resignation.”
 
“The premier has the honor and the burden to say if he intends to open a new phase, with a new agenda and new program, discussing and taking note of other people’s opinions,” Fini told supporters. “If he has the courage ... we’ll do our part.”
 
Otherwise, Fini said, he would withdraw his minister and other Cabinet officials from the government, forcing Berlusconi at the very least to a Cabinet reshuffle and further weakening his government.
 
Berlusconi’s allies dismissed the possibility of his resignation and vowed the government would continue to work as long as it enjoyed parliamentary support.
 
A Berlusconi resignation would not necessarily mean early elections.
 
Once a premier resigns, the president of the republic begins political talks to see if a new government that has parliamentary support can be formed. Only if this fails will the president call new elections.
 
In Italy’s Byzantine politics, prime ministers can resign, and have done so, only to receive a new mandate with a strengthened coalition. Berlusconi himself did that during his previous stint in power from 2001-06.
 
In another possible outcome, a new prime minister can be tapped to lead a government supported by a revised coalition.
 
Observers say an early election would hurt Italy when the country needs economic rigor and structural reform to resolve its financial woes. Still, some think early elections are inevitable, given the government’s shakiness and Berlusconi’s weakness amid a spate of scandals.
 
“The crisis is self-evident at this point,” said Giovanni Orsina, a political science professor at LUISS university in Rome. “This government’s days are numbered.”
 
Fini and Berlusconi won the 2008 election together with a party they co-founded, the People of Freedom party. But after months of bickering, they had a spectacular falling out last summer and Berlusconi effectively expelled Fini from the party.
 
More than 35 deputies close to Fini formed their own breakaway parliamentary group - potentially depriving Berlusconi’s government of a majority in the lower house, the chamber where Fini serves as speaker.
 
Fini’s appeal on Sunday puts the ball back into Berlusconi’s court at a time when neither wants to be seen as precipitating a political crisis. Fini’s lawmakers have so far supported Berlusconi’s government but they have the numbers to topple it.
 
Fini says he doesn’t want to force a national election, but also doesn’t fear it.
 
A charismatic leader who has made the transition from being a neo-Fascist to a mainstream conservative, Fini is a popular politician. His nascent party is small, but he could still draw votes from Italians disillusioned with Berlusconi or with the country’s weak opposition, the Democratic Party.
 
Without mentioning Berlusconi’s scandals directly, Fini made references to them, lamenting the lack of decorum in society and saying public figures must set a good example whether they like it or not.

 

Date created : 2010-11-07

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