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Europe
Italian leaders begin crisis talks
Former PM Silvio Berlusconi calls for a snap election after Romano Prodi steps down.
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2008 15:10 GMT
Romano Prodi has said he does not want to head
an interim government [AFP]
 
Italy's president is holding talks with political leaders following the resignation of Romano Prodi, the country's prime minister.
 
Giorgio Napolitano has said that he wants to avoid calling a snap election after a no-confidence vote in the senate, Italy's upper house, forced Prodi's government to resign on Thursday.
It was a crushing blow for the centre-left and gives centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, whose party currently leads opinion polls, a chance to return to power.
 
However there is a groundswell of pressure in Italy for much needed reforms to current election rules.
Opposition confident
 
On Friday, Berlusconi turned an the 'Italian Pride' award ceremony into an impromptu electoral rally and called for new elections to be called as soon as possible.
 
"It has been a long time since I have seen so many happy and serene faces around," he said to supporters at the Naples event.  
 
"We have all freed ourselves of a very heavy burden. Let's say it clearly, the last 20 months were 20 months of general depression.
 
"We could not go on with this government. It is urgent now to have the Italians have their say and choose their leader.
 
"To make this happen and to have an effective government as soon as possible there is an urgent need to set a date for new elections to be held, with the current electoral law".
 
However, most analysts agree that Napolitano would favour the formation of an interim government rather than dissolving parliament and holding new elections.
 
Such a government would need cross-party backing and would be charged with making the electoral system less unstable.
 
Prodi, who remains caretaker prime minister until a solution can be found, has said that he would not lead an interim government.
 
Italy's electoral system was heavily altered by Berlusconi when he was prime minister and it is widely seen as responsible for the unstable system of fragmented coalitions which has marred Prodi's tenure.

Arnold Cassola, a member of the Green Party who had backed Prodi, told Al Jazeera that he blamed Berlusconi for the current political instability.
 
"This is the result of Berlusconi's law, just before the elections two years ago," he said.
 
"He created this new electoral law on purpose to create this trouble in the senate, and this is the result of it.
 
"I am disappointed, but we were expecting it."

Prodi had sought confidence votes in both the upper and lower houses after a small Catholic party withdrew its support for him on Monday, erasing his slim senate majority.

He survived the first confidence vote in the lower house by 326 votes to 275 on Wednesday but lost Thursday's senate vote.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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