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Europe

Berlusconi optimistic on confidence vote, warns of early elections

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-17

Prompted by the fracture of his governing coalition, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has warned Italians that if he loses a confidence vote in December the country would hold early elections.

 

REUTERS - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's approval rating has hit a new low, a survey showed on Wednesday, as he prepares for a confidence vote in parliament next month which could lead to early elections.
 
An IPR opinion poll posted on the website of left-leaning daily La Repubblica said Berlusconi's popularity had fallen to 35 percent, down two percentage points from a month ago and 10 points from November 2009. It was the lowest level since the 74-year old media tycoon won a landslide election in 2008. Berlusconi faces a confidence vote in both chambers of parliament on Dec. 14, and if he lost in either he would be forced to resign.
 
He said on Wednesday he was confident he could win, but most analysts expect him to be defeated in the lower house, where he no longer has a guaranteed majority since he split with his former coalition ally Gianfranco Fini last summer.
Fini on Monday pulled his ministers from the government, further deepening the crisis. Should he lose the showdown in parliament, Berlusconi said the only alternative would be snap polls early next year -- two years ahead of schedule.
 
"If we win the confidence we will carry on working, otherwise we go to the polls," Berlusconi told reporters.
 
If the government collapses, President Giorgio Napolitano could appoint an interim administration to run business until new elections, like the one headed by former Finance Minister Lamberto Dini after Berlusconi's first government fell in 1994.
 
Berlusconi firmly rejects that option, and Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, a Berlusconi loyalist, said early elections could be held at the end of March. Fini, the centrist UDC party and the centre-left opposition have called for a government of "national responsibility".
 
President’s warning
 
On Wednesday, Napolitano said Italy's political class should act responsibly. The current turmoil in financial markets could create further uncertainties for the country. The euro-zone's third largest economy, which has one of the world's highest public debts, has weathered the financial crisis better than many of its European peers and has been spared the kind of market pounding seen in Greece, Spain or Ireland.
 
But with worries about the euro-zone weaker links picking up in recent days, some analysts say that a prolonged political crisis could put Italy -- which has 30 billion euros worth of debt to roll-over in December alone -- in the market spotlight.
 
The IPR poll in La Repubblica said voters' intentions put Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party at 28.5 percent -- sharply below the result of the 2008 eelction -- while the centre-left opposition Democratic Party stood at 26 percent.
 
The party that would have most to gain from a snap poll appeared to be the Northern League, Berlusconi's sole coalition ally, which the survey credited with 12.5 percent of the vote.
 
Fini's Future and Freedom for Italy, which he created after being expelled from the PDL he had co-founded with Berlusconi, took just 5.5 percent.
 
Most opinion polls say that while Berlusconi would still likely win an early election, he might not get a majority in the Senate, which would make it almost impossible to govern.

 

 

Date created : 2010-11-17

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