Berlusconi to make comeback as Italy premier

April 15th, 2008 - 8:19 am ICT by admin  

Rome, April 15 (DPA) Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, 71, was expected to be appointed prime minister of Italy for a third time after his centre-right coalition won the country’s general election Monday. With more than half of the votes counted, Berlusconi was projected to have gained more than 46 percent of the votes cast in the Senate. His main rival, Walter Veltroni of the centre-left Democratic Party, won just under 39 percent.

The gap was similar in the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. Here, Berlusconi’s People of Freedom and its main ally, the Northern League, were projected to have received around 45 per cent, five percentage points more than Veltroni’s result.

Neither candidate had made any statements in public before definite figures were made available.

But most observers agreed that Il Cavaliere had earned a solid enough edge to be proclaimed the winner.

“Berlusconi has a 99 percent chance of victory,” said Pierferdinando Casini, a former Berlusconi ally who this time round ran alone at the helm of the Union of Christian Democrats (UDC).

If provisional results are confirmed, Berlusconi should enjoy a relatively comfortable majority of about 10 senators in the 322- strong upper house.

The outgoing centre-left government of Romano Prodi collapsed in February, after less than two years in office, under the strain of a heterogenous coalition which commanded only a wafer-thin edge in the upper house.

Most observers had expected a much tighter race in the Senate. But in a tell-tale sign, Berlusconi was tipped to have won in Lazio and in most other swing regions.

Projections also gave Berlusconi the edge in the lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, where the winning coalition receives a bonus number of seats, however small its lead is.

If confirmed, Monday’s results would project Berlusconi to a third stint as prime minister since his decision to enter politics 14 years ago.

His first government of 1994 fell after just seven months in office. But his second, between 2001 and 2006, was the longest- serving in modern Italian history.

The next government, which will be installed after consultations with head of state President Giorgio Napolitano, will be called to tackle Italy’s deep economic woes. These include near-zero growth, rising inflation, a high budget deficit, falling competitiveness and low consumer confidence.

And despite his clear victory, most observers predicted a tough ride in office for Berlusconi since his government will have to rely on the support of the federalist and xenophobic Northern League, which produced a strong showing in Italy’s wealthy north.

Veltroni, who took over the sceptre of leading the centre-left from outgoing premier Prodi, fared better than many had predicted.

But he ultimately paid the price for severing ties with the far- left, which had proved decisive in defeating Berlusconi in the 1996 and 2006 elections.

“Our growth has been confirmed, but it’s not enough to govern,” said Ermete Realacci, a spokesman for the Democratic Party.

The Left Rainbow, which groups Prodi’s former far-left coalition partners, including Communists and Greens, risked being wiped out of the Italian political map after falling short of the required 4 per cent threshold needed to enter parliament.

The other surprise was voters’ turnout.

In spite of widespread disenchantment with Italy’s political establishment, more than 80 percent of the country’s 50 million eligible voters went to polling stations to cast their ballots.

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