Italian alliance starts patching things up

THE LEADERS of Italy's fractious right-wing alliance showed signs yesterday of patching up the dispute over policy and power-sharing that had threatened to kill off the new government before it was born.

Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon and senior partner in the alliance, gave a placatory interview to the pro-Northern League daily L'Indipendente in which he expressed confidence that an agreement would be reached.

Mr Berlusconi, in a sweetener to his disaffected Northern League allies, said that 'federalism is a serious issue . . . it is obvious (from the result of the vote) that no government essentially hostile to the development of federalism would have political credibility'.

He repeated his commitment to separate his business empire from his political activities - another of the League's main demands.

At the same time, Mr Berlusconi's two allies, Umberto Bossi, the League's raucous leader, and Gianfranco Fini, the leader of the neo-fascist National Alliance, met face to face for the first time after months of spitting insults at each other.

'It was a positive meeting,' Mr Fini declared afterwards. He said that the talks had centred on the League's demands for a swift move to federalism, to which the neo-fascists have been staunchly opposed. However, although the two sides are now talking to each other, they remain a long way apart.

'We can only accept federalism within a presidential system,' Mr Fini added. He has proposed the creation of a strong, directly elected presidency on the French model.

Mr Berlusconi's abrupt rupture of talks with the League on Tuesday, and his threat to return to the polls, after a spate of attacks by Mr Bossi, appears to have concentrated minds. Mr Bossi had said he would consult the leaders of the minor parties in Rome yesterday, with a view to forming an alternative alliance.

A factor behind his change of heart must be the findings of two opinion polls which indicate that Mr Bossi's on-off approach to entering government with his partners is turning voters against him.

Were the elections to be held again today, the polls suggest, the Northern League's vote would slip to 6 per cent from the 8.4 per cent it won in the proportional part of the ballot. Backing for Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia had risen to 22.8 per cent from 21 per cent.

After playing the successful entrepreneur and family man to perfection, Mr Berlusconi is polishing up his statesman's persona.

'Are we prepared to end these personal attacks, these attempts to deny the will of the electorate? I hope so.

'I ask nothing for myself, and I await the decision of the head of state (on the appointment of a prime minister) with tranquillity,' concludes Mr Berlusconi in his interview.

The punters seem to love it.

BOSSI ON BERLUSCONI

Before the election:

Berlusconi is a rib from the old regime. He is the front man for (Bettino) Craxi (the disgraced socialist leader).

Berlusconi's men are nothing to do with us, they are the left-overs from the old regime. We have nothing to do with him.

After the election:

We are in a dangerous situation for democracy. Berluskaiser is used to having everything his own way. He has too much power concentrated in his hands.

I could enter government with 'Napoleon', but with my hands tied the whole time, I'd end up having to head-butt him

BERLUSCONI ON BOSSI

Before the election:

Bossi's people are our people. They are blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh, we are united.

After the election:

Bossi is losing credibility. He is the Vanna Marchi of Italian politics (a female television personality notorious for promoting dubious products).

Bossi is untrustworthy. He is trying to play the sordid power games of the old regime. He is betraying the voters.

Bossi is as dangerous and unpredictable as a wounded wild boar.

(Photograph omitted)

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Co-Ordinator - FF&E

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior FF&E Project Co-ordinator is re...

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Carer / Support Worker plus Bank Support

£10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A delightful, 11 year old boy who lives in t...

Recruitment Genius: Office Furniture Installer / Driver

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Furniture Installer /...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - North West - OTE £40k

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor