Berlusconi to announce new cabinet "by end of the week"

Other News Materials 15 April 2008 14:51

(dpa) - Italy prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi was focusing Tuesday on the composition of his new cabinet after securing a convincing victory in the country's general election.

"I express my congratulations to the coalition led by the honourable Berlusconi for the clear victory achieved," said President Giorgio Napolitano, Italy's head of state.

Some of the ballots cast by Italians living abroad have yet to be tallied, but Berlusconi is assured victory after most of the results of Sunday and Monday's voting were announced overnight.

The first foreign statesman that Berlusconi called was fellow conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

The billionaire-turned-politician said he planned to unveil the government he intends to present for approval before parliament "by the end of the week."

Berlusconi tapped the European Union's current top justice official, Franco Frattini, as possible foreign minister - a position he held in 2002-2004 under a previous centre-right government.

Berlusconi also said he intends to include in his cabinet Giulio Tremonti, who acted as economy minister in previous Berlusconi governments.

He also promised to appoint "at least" four women to his 12-strong cabinet.

A likely female candidate as justice minister is lawyer Giulia Bongiorno, a member of former prime minister Giulio Andreotti's defence team in several Mafia-related trials.

The post-fascist National Alliance's Ignazio La Russa was also being touted as possible defence minister. His party leader, Gianfranco Fini, was being tipped to become speaker of parliament.

Berlusconi triumphed in Sunday and Monday's election with around 47 per cent of all votes cast, nine percentage points ahead of his main rival, Walter Veltroni of the centre-left Democratic Party.

The results gave Berlusconi's centre-right coalition a comfortable tally of 170 seats out of a total of 322 in the upper house, the Senate.

Berlusconi's People of Freedom party and its main ally, the Northern League, also have a commanding majority in the lower house Chamber of Deputies after capturing 340 seats out of a total of 630.

Both houses of the newly elected parliament need to convene and choose their relative speakers, before Napolitano can formally ask Berlusconi to form a government.

The new government will then need to face a vote of confidence in parliament.