Berlusconi calls a ceasefire, but not for long

The health of Italy's new non-party political government looked a little stronger last night as the outgoing prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, called a temporary ceasefire in his campaign to undermine his designated successor, Lamberto Dini.

Mr Berlusconi maintained his threat to vote against Mr Dini's administration in a parliamentary confidence vote next week, but said there was still time to come to terms over the timing of fresh general elections. "There is a period of time, a few days,"

he told a news conference.

Mr Dini, whose 19-member cabinet was sworn in under a political storm cloud on Tuesday night, offered a few compromises of his own. He promised to wind up his interim government as soon as it had carried out the four-point programme it had set itself. Hewas also reported to be considering reinstating the junior ministers who served under Mr Berlusconi - thereby giving his government an overtly pro-Berlusconi political slant.

He stopped short of putting a time limit on his mandate, however, describing his task in terms almost as abstruse as those of his one-time political mentor, Christian Democrat grandee Giulio Andreotti.

"The government which I will propose to parliament does not pretend to be a substitute for political parties, but feels the duty of carrying out an inescapable emergency task, in the expectation that those political forces freely chosen by the electoratewill in due course be in a position to give expression to a government more representative of popular sovereignty," he said.

Mr Dini's convoluted phraseology was a far cry from the blunt language flying around the corridors of power in the past few days. He has been called a traitor by members of Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party and its reformed neo-Fascist allies in the National Alliance. Mr Berlusconi, meanwhile, has been described by one rival as "the great corrupter".

Mr Dini's principal aim appeared to be to reassure - particularly the financial markets which have been busily selling Italian shares and currency since the storm over his appointment blew up. Italian markets duly recovered their poise yesterday. The Milan bourse closed 1.5 percent higher, recovering from a disastrous start, when it slumped over three per cent at the bell.

"I am confident that the necessary support will be forthcoming to the government once its make-up and intentions have been clarified in a parliamentary debate," he said, with the soothing tones that a lifetime in banking has taught him.

The question is where that support will come from. Mr Dini could have the numbers to start work even without Mr Berlusconi and his friends, but will have to rely on the support of left-wing parties instinctively hostile to his programme of economic austerity and budgetary prudence.

To be at all credible, the Prime Minister will have to woo at least part of Mr Berlusconi's Freedom Alliance whose conservative free-market ideas he largely shares.

He is likely to put up stiff resistance to pressure to put a precise date on the end of his mandate, however. Other considerations aside, the constitution does not recognise any time limit for governments other than the natural life of parliament, set atfive years.

"A government is not a pot of yoghurt. You can't put a sell-by date on it," said Francesco Tabladini, leader of the Northern League party in the Senate.

Mr Berlusconi and his allies may not in the end need to insist on such a deadline. All they need to do to provoke the fall of Mr Dini's government - when they think the time is right - is to withdraw their support definitively. That would probably be enough in itself to provoke a dissolution of parliament.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding business based in ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales - Business Broker - Scotland

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As an award winning and leading...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales - Business Broker - North East Region

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As an award winning and leading...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas