Italy's president summons parliament speakers

Other News Materials 6 February 2008 00:19 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano summoned Tuesday Parliament's two speakers for a meeting in which he informed them of his decision to dissolve the country's legislature ahead of new elections.

Napolitano held evening meetings with upper house Senate Speaker Franco Marini and his counterpart from the lower house Chamber of Deputies, Fausto Bertinotti.

The meetings, Napolitano's office said in a statement, were held "in terms of article 88" of Italy's constitution whereby the president exercises his power to dissolve parliament.

Napolitano is expected to make a formal announcement to the nation on Wednesday.

Under Italy's constitution elections must be held within 70 days of Parliament being dissolved. Italian media on Tuesday mentioned April 6 or 13 as likely dates for fresh polls.

Napolitano's summoning of the speakers comes in the wake of Marini returning to the president on Monday a mandate to form an interim government which had aimed to usher electoral reform.

Napolitano last week tasked Marini to gauge support for a new government that would seek to change Italy's electoral law in ways that would secure more stable governments.

On Monday, the senate speaker wrapped up three days of consultations with political leaders to see if they would back him in forming a government to fill a vacuum left by Romano Prodi's resignation as centre-left premier on January 24.

While business and labour representatives, along with most centre- left political leaders expressed support for Marini, the Senate speaker failed to sway the Silvio Berlusconi-led centre-right opposition.

Berlusconi, who is leading in opinion polls, said his grouping would only accept new elections.

Italy's current electoral system - introduced just before the April 2006 elections by the centre-right government of Berlusconi, who was then premier - favours small parties which are then often in a position to dictate terms within government.

Prodi's government - Italy's 61st since World War II - an unwieldy coalition of nine parties ranging from moderate Catholics to diehard communists, saw its already slim majority in the Senate vanish completely through the defection of two small parties.