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Napolitano asks Prodi to stay on as Italy premier

Vote of confidence to take place next week; reports suggest needed majority is attainable

Napolitano asks  Prodi to stay on as Italy premier

Italy's president asked Romano Prodi yesterday to stay on as premier and put his center-left government to a new vote of confidence in parliament, seeking a swift end to the political crisis prompted by the Cabinet's resignation days ago.
Prodi has demanded ironclad commitments from the parties in his coalition to support government policy, and he promised yesterday that he can command a majority in parliament.
"I will seek a vote of confidence as soon as possible, with renewed impetus and a united and determined coalition," Prodi announced after meeting with the president.
But with a Senate majority constantly at risk and allies who have proven less than reliable, the new Prodi bid promises to be dogged by the same risk of instability that has led to his resignation on Wednesday after nine months in the post.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano announced his decision after holding two days of talks with party leaders.
The president said there was not sufficient support for a broad-coalition government, as demanded by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other conservatives. He said that most party leaders agreed that early elections without a change in Italy's electoral law - which has increased the influence of small parties - was pointless.
"There was no alternative," Napolitano told reporters.
Prodi stepped down on Wednesday after an embarrassing parliamentary defeat over foreign policy, including the government's plan to keep troops in Afghanistan. Defections by radical leftists, who have been voicing opposition to various government policies, were to blame.
Following the resignation, all coalition allies told Napolitano they were ready to support any bids by Prodi to return to the premiership. They signed up to a new detailed government program that Prodi said would be "non negotiable."
The 12-point platform calls for respecting Italy's international commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and gives the premier the final word on any disagreement in the squabbling coalition.
"We must defend this government, defend the political stability of this country ... and defend the credibility of the Italian left," said Massimo D'Alema, the foreign minister.
No date was immediately set on when Prodi might go before the two houses of parliament to test his majority. But the votes were expected next week.
Prodi has a comfortable margin in the lower house of parliament. But his majority in the Senate is not guaranteed, leading center-left leaders to frantically count the numbers of senators they can rely on and courting outsiders - mostly a few moderates and Catholics - in an effort to broaden the coalition.
"It's a meat market of senators," said Fabrizio Cicchitto, a member of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party. "We have reached a point of degradation."
The center-left seemed to have persuaded at least one centrist - Marco Follini, a former deputy premier who has since left the conservative coalition led by Berlusconi. Follini told the Corriere della Sera daily he would "likely" support Prodi, saying he wanted to take the government away from the influence of radical fringes.
Center-left leaders are also trying to rally the support of some of seven honorary senators appointed for life. Reports said, for example, that any vote of confidence in the Senate would not be held before Wednesday, when one of the honorary senators expected to support the government, Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini, returns from a conference in Dubai.
According to Corriere della Sera and other dailies, Prodi can count on 162 senators, including four honorary ones, compared to the opposition's 157.


Updated : 2021-10-24 03:46 GMT+08:00