Triumphant Berlusconi struggles for coalition

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SILVIO BERLUSCONI was last night trying to weld a viable coalition out of his warring right- wing allies after his - and their - overwhelming triumph in the Italian elections.

The media tycoon, swept to victory by a television campaign, was named by his neo-Fascist allies and the left-wing leader, Achille Occhetto, as the man who should lead the next government. However, Umberto Bossi, truculent leader of the Northern League, the smallest right- wing party, insisted 'the League is the only force capable of giving a government to the country' and must provide the prime minister.

Gianfranco Fini, leader of the neo-Fascist-led National Alliance (AN), objected, saying the League, limited to the North, 'is the expression of a geographic area and not of the whole nation'. President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, who has to pick someone to form a government, is biding his time.

Mr Berlusconi will have his work cut out to reconcile such enmity and suspicion. Mr Bossi, who spent most of the campaign attacking him and the 'Fascists', has insisted no member of the P2 Masonic network, to which Mr Berlusconi once belonged, should be prime minister.

The League and AN have little in common: the League wants Italy to be a federation, AN is nationalist. Mr Bossi, holding out for the best deal, wants a Thatcherite economy while the AN has a socialist streak. The League means the North. The AN and Forza Italia have done well in the South and Sicily, where political patronage dies hard.

If the parties fail to compromise, Italy may have another non-political government until a new round of elections.

------------------------------------------------------- CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES ------------------------------------------------------- Distribution of seats and percentage of vote ------------------------------------------------------- RIGHT 366 42.9% LEFT 213 34.4% CENTRE 46 15.7% OTHERS 5 7.0% -------------------------------------------------------