Berlusconi deal to save skin?

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi did not help himself with voters by allying himself with American President George Bush on the invasion of Iraq. When an Italian journalist being driven out of captivity was fired upon, and an intelligence agent who had negotiated her release was killed, and the agent was elevated to the status of a national hero, one had to wonder how Berlusconi would do in the next elections. The crisis arose quickly. Not so surprisingly, Berlusconi’s party took a drubbing in regional elections. As the Independent explains, “[t]he crisis was precipitated on Friday by the two parties, the UDC (Democratic Union of the Centre, a rump of the old Christian Democrats) and the New Italian Socialist Party, which pulled out of the government after Mr Berlusconi had refused to make drastic changes to his cabinet and programme following the disastrous showing of his own party, Forza Italia, in regional elections two weeks ago. Of the 13 regions up for grabs, his party managed to win only two.”

The next I caught was in a newsletter from Deutschewelle, which said:

Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly agreed to temporarily resign and receive a new mandate from President Carlo Ciampi to form a new government. This comes after he reached a deal with rebel ministers of the Christian Democrat UDC party to rejoin a new centre-right government and avoid snap elections. The crisis began on Friday when four UDC ministers resigned demanding sweeping policy changes after the coalition suffered heavy losses in regional elections. The move left the government of the verge of collapse with observers predicting that Berlusconi would lose if a new general election were to be held now.

Only it hasn’t worked out that way:

There’s confusion over the state of the Italian government. This, after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi failed to resign during a meeting with President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Berlusconi had been expected to step down and then seek to form a new government. But after their meeting, President Ciampi said Berlusconi should go back to parliament to see how much support he still had. Earlier reports suggested that Berlusconi had reached a deal with rebel ministers of the UDC party to join a new centre-right government and avoid fresh elections. The crisis began last Friday when four UDC ministers resigned. They were demanding major policy changes, after the coalition suffered heavy losses in recent regional elections.

According to the Independent, this attracted fire “from Piero Fassino, the leader of the Democratic Party of the Left, the biggest opposition party, who spoke of ‘a crisis that is being transformed into an indecent farce…. With his behaviour, the premier is making a mockery of his coalition, the institutions and the whole country at once,’ he said.”

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