Berlusconi proposes January elections if government fails to gain parliamentary majority

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Silvio Berlusconi has layed foundations for a potential election in Italy early next year. The Prime Minister of Italy said he would consider holding an election if his government failed to have a significant parliamentary majority and is unable to pass reforms by the end of January.

Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi
Image: Lorenza e Vincenzo Iaconianni.

Berlusconi only narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in the Italian parliament a week ago, and he is facing a backlash from students over plans to radically reform the university system.

Berlusconi said he had conferred with officials in Lega Nord, his government's main ally, which has stressed elections are the most promising end to the political crisis in Italy, which began when when a split occurred in Berlusconi's party, The People of Freedom.

"If, in contrast to what we expect, we do not have a sufficient majority to govern at the end of January, I think that the best thing would be to have the chance to get a fresh majority in both houses of parliament," Berlusconi told journalists.

However, there is skepticism that even if Berlusconi wanted to hold an election, he would be unable to. President Giorgio Napolitano has insisted dissolving parliament is a last resort. Berlusconi won the vote of no confidence last week by only three votes. The Chamber of Deputies voted to keep Burlusconi in power by 314 votes to 311.

The Prime Minister said he intended to try and persuade those who voted against him to support his government. "There are lots of lawmakers belonging to various political forces who have reasons for dissatisfaction with the groups they belong to," he said.

The news comes a day after thousands of Italian students mounted a violent protest against proposed, radical reforms of the country's university system planned by Berlusconi's administration. Riot police used tear gas on protesters in Palermo; campaigners occupied a rail line in Naples; hundreds of protesters staged a short sit-in in the Mole Antonelliana, a major landmark in Turin, in northern Italy. The students urged President Napolitano to refuse to sign the law.