Berlusconi's last stand dashed by vote error

The Italian interior ministry's acknowledgement that the number of ballots in question for the lower house of parliament was not near enough to overturn his rival Romano Prodi's 24,000-vote majority discredited Mr Berlusconi's claim that he lost to Mr Prodi through "cheating".

The announcement was made in a statement just hours after La Repubblica newspaper reported that Mr Berlusconi had ordered the interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, to annul the election hours after balloting ended but that Mr Pisanu had refused.

After four days of political stalemate, the interior ministry said that a "material error" had led officials at the ministry to claim initially that 43,028 votes were disputed in the voting for the Chamber of Deputies but that, in reality the number was 2,131. It was the same story as regards the Senate - the ministry initially claimed as many as 39,822 votes were disputed while the true number, the ministry admitted, was only 3,135. The fresh figures, released without further explanation, meant that, in all, only some 5,000 votes were in question, too few to jeopardise Mr Prodi's slim but respectable majority in the lower house of some 25,000 votes. "The interior ministry note does not surprise us," said his spokesman, Silvio Sircana.

The bizarre U-turn by the ministry is likely to increase pressure on Mr Pisanu to resign, after allegations of irregular conduct marred his handling of the vote counting.

But it sparked fresh jubilation among Prodi supporters. "We were right. The Interior Ministry has finally ended the charade by Berlusconi and [his party] Forza Italia," the biggest party in Prodi's coalition said in a statement. "We hope that the prime minister and his party will now recognise the outcome of the election in a responsible way and stop delegitimising the vote of Italians," said the Democrats of the Left.

Mr Prodi predicted that the final tally would "confirm the victory". "The match is over," he was quoted as telling Apcom news agency. "Now let's move on."

There was no immediate sign, however, of the increasingly isolated prime minister conceding defeat. "We are carrying on. We will resist," he told a crowd of supporters shouting "Silvio! Silvio!" outside his Rome residence. And, however dire the situation seems for Mr Berlusconi, supporters maintained hope that the media tycoon could somehow prevail.

The minister for Italians living abroad, Mirko Tremaglia, called yesterday for a new election for the 12 deputies and six senators selected by foreign nationals. Foreign voting "should be done again" because there were "grave irregularities" that meant that more than 228,000 Italians abroad did not get to vote, said Mr Tremaglia, a "post-fascist" who, as a young man, fought with Blackshirt forces defending Benito Mussolini's last-ditch Nazi-puppet government of Salò in northern Italy.

Mr Berlusconi's office declined to comment on the interior ministry statement last night, but pointed out that all election data was still "preliminary" ahead of the official court confirmation. He has said he is awaiting the verification of the election result by Italy's highest court. After the 26 regional election offices complete their tally, they forward the results to the court for a final review. The ruling is not expected before next week.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions