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Italian president opens meeting on gov't crisis
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Italian President Giorgio Napolitano opened consultations Friday on the government crisis brought out by the resignation of Premier Romano Prodi.

A timetable issued by Napolitano's office indicated that consultations will wind up on Tuesday.

Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano (L) leaves a judicial year ceremony with caretaker Primier Romano Prodi at Quirinale Palace in Rome Jan. 25, 2008. Napolitano opened consultations Friday on the government crisis brought out by the resignation of Romano Prodi. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Napolitano opened his consultations by meeting first with Senate Speaker Franco Marini, a prime candidate to head an interim executive.

Friday also saw the president confer with Lower House Speaker Fausto Bertinotti and later with representatives from the independent caucuses, first from the Senate and then from the Lower House.

On Saturday Napolitano will talk to Italy's many smaller parties, including the Udeur, splinter groups from the once powerful Christians Democrat and Socialist parties, the Greens and those representing local interests and ethnic minorities.

On Monday the president will tackle the bigger parties starting with the devolutionist Northern League, then the UDC, the Communist Refoundation party and right-wing National Alliance.

The final day of Napolitano's consultations will begin with Forza Italia and then the new Democratic Party, born during the legislature through the merger of the Democratic Left and the centrist Daisy party.

Napolitano will wind up his consultations by conferring individually with his predecessors: Francesco Cossiga, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

Italian Premier Romano Prodi joins his hands, prior to a confidence vote in the Senate, in Rome, Jan. 24, 2008.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

In other developments, Prodi ruled out any possibility of heading an interim government.

His statements appeared to be a reply to leftist elements in his ex-coalition who said they would only back an interim executive if Prodi was at the helm.

Prodi resigned Thursday after he lost a confidence vote in the Senate due to defections in his coalition, primarily by his former Justice Minister Clemente Mastella and his small, centrist Udeur party.

Because the center left no longer has a majority in parliament, Napolitano has two basic options. He can either dissolve parliament and call early elections, or he can ask an institutional figure above the political fray to form an interim government which will adopt needed reforms, especially to the voting system, before calling elections.

In the past, Napolitano has made it clear he preferred electoral reform before elections.

At present most of the center right is in favor of early elections, hoping to ride the political wave of Prodi's downfall, while in the center left there is more support for an interim government.

However, there are divisions in both the left and right, as well as within individual parties, on which option would be best.

Pier Ferdinando Casini, leader of the opposition centrist Catholic UDC party, has proposed what he calls a "government of national responsibility", which would involve all major parties, to tackle the nation's problems.

If this is not possible, then elections are preferable, he said on Friday.

Italian former Premier Silvio Berluconi, the head of the Forza Italian party and probable center-right candidate for premier, reiterated on Friday that he wanted snap elections with the current election law, which he forced through at the end of the last legislature.

The latest polls indicate that over 50 percent Italians are opposed to elections without electoral reform, a view shared by the country's unions and employers.

(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2008)


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