Berlusconi and allies demand early elections in Italy
( dpa ) - Leaders of Italy's anti-immigration Northern League party on Monday told Italian president Giorgio Napolitano they will accept nothing but snap elections to resolve the current government crisis - a view shared by their ally Silvio Berlusconi.
"The system is blocked, the more we delay a return to the ballot boxes, the more damage this country has to suffer," said the Northern Leagues's Roberto Maroni following a morning meeting with Napolitano.
The League's delegation - kitted out with their trademark emerald- green ties and pocket handkerchiefs - was the latest to visit the presidential Quirinale Palace residence since Napolitano began consultations following the resignation of Romano Prodi's centre left government last Thursday.
Prodi quit after the governing centre-left coalition, crippled by defections, lost a confidence vote in the parliament's upper house, the Senate.
Over the weekend Berlusconi whose conservative party Forza Italia leads opinion polls and who is scheduled to meet Napolitano on Tuesday - the last day of the round of consultations - also demanded early elections.
"Millions of Italians will move on Rome," unless a fresh poll is held, Berlusconi said, using language which according to some critics echoed the 1922 Fascist March on Rome, a protest that brought Benito Mussolini to power.
"In a democracy citizens have a right to take to the streets to protest," said Alfredo Mantovano of the right-wing party Alleanza Nazionale, defending Berlusconi's remarks.
But another key member of Italy's centre-right opposition, the conservative UDC launched more reconciliatory signals believed to be in tune with Napolitano's desire for the creation of a caretaker government to usher electoral reform before any new election is held.
Stressing it was time for leaders from the centre-left and centre- right to "show responsibility," UDC leader Pierferdinando Casini said after his talks Monday with Napolitano that a bipartisan "pacifier government" was needed to introduce a new electoral law.
Italy's current electoral law, which favours small parties, has been blamed for leaving the country with unstable governments.
Reforms being proposed include raising the minimum percentage of votes parties would need to be represented in parliament and the awarding of a "majority prize" to the largest party in a winning coalition.