Berlusconi projected winner
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Centre-left candidate Walter Veltroni has conceded defeat in Italy's parliamentary election and wished conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi "good luck in his work" as prime minister. (Report: T. Grucza)
Conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi appears to have won a third term as Italian prime minister on Monday after his centre-left rival Walter Veltroni conceded defeat.
The Italian center-right bloc, led by Berlusconi, received 45.47% of the vote in the Senate—versus 40.16% for Walter Veltroni’s center-left bloc in election held on Sunday and Monday, according to Interior Ministry figures from 20% of the voting stations.
"We have difficult months ahead that will require great strength," said Berlusconi in a telephone interview with RAI public television Monday night, before sending "an affectionate kiss to all Italians".
Veltroni, 52, told supporters of his Democratic Party: "As is the custom in all Western democracies, I telephoned Berlusconi to acknowledge his victory and wish him good luck in his work".
Silvio Berlusconi expressed "deep satisfaction" at his apparent victory in a phone call to his main ally, National Alliance leader Gianfranco Fini.
However, although polls give Berlusconi a clear-cut lead in the Senate, a stable, confident majority is far from guaranteed. “One should be extremely cautious” regarding exit polls, said FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Rome Alexis Masciarelli. The final results will be announced on Tuesday morning.
These initial counts confirm exit projections released earlier in the day that predicted a narrow lead for the center-right over the center-left Democrat Party (PD) headed by Walter Veltroni.
According to two survey institutes, the right can rely on a clear lead in the Senate, from 4.6 to 9.1 points ahead of the left-wing coalition (43.7% to 47.2% versus 38.1 and 39.1%).
The gap predicted in the lower house is smaller, with 42% attributed to the right and 40% to the PD, according to the Piepoli Institute.
“Until the last ballot”
Although Berlusconi is given the lead in the election, governing will not be easy for him without a clear-cut majority in the Senate. The Italian electoral law allots seats in the upper house on a regional basis, which can lead to skewed results on the national level.
In the case of a narrow majority, the new head of government will have to extend his hand to the centrists within UDC and perhaps to M.Veltroni in order to push his reforms and have them adopted.
Italians will have to wait “until the last ballot” is counted Tuesday morning to know the final result of this poll, said Alexis Masciarelli, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Rome. “And they surely remember the lesson they learned in 2002: Initially, exit polls gave a solid victory to Romano Prodi, but as the count moved forward, the Prime Minister had to content himself with an extremely narrow lead in the Senate, a lead that was too short in order to govern in the long run.
As suggested by the relatively low turnout of the first voting day Sunday (62.5%, 4 points behind the 2006 turnout), the Italians were far from captivated by the campaign, one of the dullest in recent years according to political analysts. “Politics are losing points” the Italian daily Corriere della Sera said Monday morning. However, the turnout reached 82.4% on the second day of voting, just one point behind the 2006 turnout.
Although participation was relatively high, the Italians’ spirit has recently been challenged by a series of mishaps, among them Naples’ garbage crisis and the Alitalia deal. More than anything, the Italians have been affected by their country’s economical slowdown. Italy’s growth rate is particularly of concern, with only 1.5% last year and a 0.6% rate predicted for 2008.
In view of the major reforms to come, the future government will more than ever need a wide majority, according to Alexis Masciarelli. The cabinet’s capacity to implement the vital reforms depends entirely on its strength and weight in Parliament.
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