'Fighting' Silvio urges fresh poll after toppling coalition
SILVIO Berlusconi called for fresh elections yesterday after plunging Italy into chaos by pulling his ministers from the country's coalition government.
"I am not tired of fighting, I am in great form," the former prime minister told supporters on his 77th birthday, a day after bringing down Enrico Letta's coalition.
Mr Letta's predecessor, Mario Monti, resigned in December after Mr Berlusconi ended his support for his technocrat government, meaning Mr Berlusconi has brought down two governments in 10 months, just as the country struggles to pass reforms to beat a two-year recession.
But cracks in Mr Berlusconi's support appeared as three of his five ministers in Mr Letta's cabinet said they were resigning as requested, but would not join his newly- founded Forza Italia party. Giorgio Napolitano, the Italian president, said he would try to drum up a new majority without calling new elections.
"Centrists are beavering away to create a breakaway group," said James Walston, professor of international relations at the American University of Rome.
He added that it was likely Mr Letta would find the 20 or so senators he would need to reforge a majority without Berlusconi.
At least three of his five ministers in Premier Enrico Letta's government, where Mr Berlusconi's Freedom People party is the main partner, said they would only reluctantly comply with that order because Berlusconi had picked them for their ministry posts.
In a rare challenge to Mr Berlusconi's long-standing leadership of his centre-right populist movement, the three ministers indicated they might help Letta survive the confidence vote he has called for parliament to determine if the five-month-old government can survive.
"I thoroughly understand his (Berlusconi's) state of mind, but I cannot justify or share the strategy" that the ministers quit, said Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin. Another close aide to Berlusconi, Reforms Minister Gaetano Quagliariello, said he would follow his conscience in the confidence vote.
Speaking by telephone to rank-and-file members of his party at a Naples rally, Berlusconi called for "elections as soon as possible" and boasted "we will win." But hours later, he suddenly took a softer tack.
In online comments, Mr Berlusconi said that he would continue to back the governing coalition but only to pass specific measures on his party's agenda. (© The Daily Telegraph)