Italy president in crisis talks after Prodi quits

Italy's president held crisis talks with political leaders to see if Prodi could still head a government or must be replaced after resigning as prime minister after only nine months in power.

Italy president in crisis talks after Prodi quits

Prodi, who won the narrowest election in Italy's post-war history last year, quit on Wednesday after being defeated in the Senate on foreign policy -- a constant source of friction in his nine-party, Catholics-to-communists coalition. "Comrades, all go home," crowed the headline in right-wing daily Il Giornale run by the brother of Silvio Berlusconi, the tycoon former prime minister who hopes to return to power if new elections are held.
But in a country used to revolving-door politics, with 61 governments since 1945, the crisis was largely shrugged off by financial markets. Berlusconi, Prodi's predecessor, was the first post-war premier to serve a full five years, but he too had to resign and reform his government due to infighting. Euro zone government bonds and the Milan bourse were largely unaffected by the news, with the S&P/MIB index up 0.5 percent. The constitution requires President Giorgio Napolitano to end the impasse while Prodi remains as caretaker leader. One paper called it a game of Russian roulette for Prodi, for whom the outcome is unpredictable. There are three main scenarios. If Napolitano detects enough support for Prodi among centre-left parties, he could ask him to form a new government or go to parliament with his present cabinet for a confidence vote, in which case a victory would allow him to stay in office. If support for Prodi is not strong enough, Napolitano could ask someone else, possibly Interior Minister Giuliano Amato, to form a caretaker government of experts with cross-party backing.  If no agreement is found on who should be prime minister, Napolitano would be forced to dissolve parliament and call early elections, though this option appears unlikely for now.
"There are too many divisions in this government. They could carry on but in three months they would collapse again," said Giacobbe Rubin, a 50-year-old shopkeeper on a cigarette break. Analysts agree any Prodi government would be extremely weak and vulnerable to infighting among allies who disagree on just about anything from military missions abroad to gay rights. "Even if there is another Prodi government it would be hanging by a thread and would not last long, as the reasons for tension abound," said Gianfranco Pasquino, political science professor at the Bologna center of Johns Hopkins University. Berlusconi's spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti said that a Prodi comeback would be the return of a lame duck. Shares in Berlusconi's broadcaster Mediaset rose on hopes that a media law threatening its revenues, championed by the Prodi government, might now be shelved.
Ratings agencies Standard & Poor's and Fitch, which both downgraded Italian debt last October citing the weakness of the coalition, said the political crisis did not effect the ratings. But Fitch said the situation could threaten further economic reforms after the deficit-cutting 2007 budget, meant to bring Italy in line with European Union requirements that cost former European Commission president Prodi his early popularity.
Despite continued bickering within his coalition, the resignation of 67-year-old Prodi still came as a surprise. The Senate vote was only intended as a motion of support for government foreign policy, but Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema turned it into a test of the executive's strength, giving Prodi little choice once the motion failed to pass. Prodi has only a one-seat majority in the Senate, and the revolt of two leftist senators in his coalition was enough to put the government in a corner. It was deja vu for Prodi, whose last spell in power almost a decade ago was also cut short by far-left coalition allies. This time they rebelled over keeping Italian troops in Afghanistan and allowing the expansion of a U.S. military base in Italy.

[WHAT'S NEXT?] 

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned on Wednesday after losing a parliamentary vote over foreign policy. Following are answers to commonly asked questions about the political crisis:

Q: Will there be an election?
A: Calling an election is just one of many options before President Giorgio Napolitano, the supreme arbiter of Italian politics. If he decides that Prodi can govern with a firm majority, there would be no need for him to dissolve parliament or even select a new prime minister.

Q: Does Prodi want to be PM?
A: That's unclear. His spokesman says he will only carry on  if and only if  he has a guarantee of full support from his 9-party parliamentary majority. That could be hard after the members of the far left abandoned him during Wednesday's high-profile vote in the Senate.

Q: Could someone else lead the existing center-left?
A: Yes. Napolitano could select another leader from the existing centre-left coalition if he can find someone that has the support of the Catholics-to-communists coalition. But the center-left's divisions run deep and it is not certain another leader could overcome fundamental differences on policy.

Q: What other choices are there?
A: Dissolving parliament and calling an election would be the most drastic option, and that appears unlikely for now. Napolitano could also chose a  technical  government of non-partisan experts with cross-party backing, or he could select a new centre-left government with a fresh lineup that could include parties currently outside the government, such as the Union of Christian Democrats.

Q: When will the crisis be resolved?
A: After consulting with party delegations on Thursday, Napolitano will have to make a decision. If Prodi stays in power, he could undergo a confidence vote in parliament in a matter of days. A big shakeup, however, could prolong matters for weeks.

 

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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