Berlusconi launches new 'people's party'

Silvio Berlusconi has stunned Italian politics by announcing the dissolution of Forza Italia, Italy's largest party, founded by him nearly 14 years ago, and its replacement by "the Party of the People" or "the Party of Freedom".

The media mogul, Italy's richest man and the only Italian prime minister since the war to rule for five consecutive years, told crowds of supporters in Milan on Sunday night: "The time has come. Today a great new party is officially born. The people are ahead of us and they demand it. Cast away hesitation and fear. Enough of wig-wearers and professional politicians. We have collected seven and a half million signatures, and only half of those come from [supporters of] Forza Italia. That's the demonstration that there is no reason to wait any longer."

The signatures, he went on, were in favour of "new elections and to elect a new government which will be in harmony with the citizens and know how to govern". He would continue collecting signatures, he said, "all next week because the people in every region want it. We say no to a government that is under the dictatorship of the extreme left." Forza Italia, he went on, "will dissolve. [But] certainly it's a name that has counted."

Of his allies in his "House of Liberties" centre-right coalition that ruled from 2001 to 2006, he said: "I hope they will all join, none excluded, because we will be the protagonists of democracy and freedom for decades to come ... We will go forward with the force of the people."

It was an extraordinary performance by the man whose knack for theatrical surprise has repeatedly allowed him to seize the initiative in a political world divided between some 155 parties big, small and minuscule, and whose preferred mode of decision-making consists of the stitching of deals between the apparatchiks of different groups.

Mr Berlusconi has always refused to acknowledge Romano Prodi's victory in the election of April 2006, which was closely fought and concluded with the centre-left obtaining a razor-thin majority in the Senate. But although Mr Prodi has once been obliged to resign after losing a Senate vote – he was reappointed the following day – Mr Berlusconi's oft-repeated desire to bring down the government with one hefty shove has failed. When the Budget was passed last week with relative ease it was seen by Mr Berlusconi's allies as well as his enemies as the end of the road for his negative tactics.

Now Mr Berlusconi has once again tried to seize the high ground by going, like an improbable Jacobin, to the one constituency he has always depended on, the people. The invitation to join his new grouping was immediately spurned by Gianfranco Fini, leader of the "post-Fascist" National Alliance, and deputy prime minister and foreign minister in his government. "The way he launched the party doesn't interest us," Mr Fini said yesterday. "Join his party? We're not even talking about it."

Some detect a steely and rational resolve behind Mr Berlosconi's move. An electoral law drafted by a Northern League member of his former government has given extra power to small parties and made effective government almost impossible, as Mr Prodi has found. By severing himself from the minnows of his coalition (Mr Fini's party has 12 per cent of the vote), Mr Berlusconi may have taken the first step towards entering into talks with the newly born mass party of the centre-left, the Democratic Party, to draft a new electoral law which would restore effectiveness to government.

ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little