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.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
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

History Teacher

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Plymouth i...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer -...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:TEACHERS REQUIREDWe are...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?