Italian Election 94: Buoyant Berlusconi woos League

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The Independent Online
The main obstacle in Silvio Berlusconi's path to the prime minister's office appeared to have been removed last night when Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League, indicated he had dropped his objections.

That, at least, was the media tycoon's impression after his first meeting with Mr Bossi since their right-wing alliance won the general elections. 'I think that was the conclusion of our meeting,' Mr Berlusconi told a press conference.

Besides, he said 'the elections gave a precise pointer. Forza Italia (his party) is the biggest party in the country and Berlusconi is its leader'.

Mr Bossi, who had flatly ruled out Mr Berlusconi as prime minister, made no comment on the subject after the meeting. But he declared: 'If everything goes as it should we will rapidly be ready to give the country a government. But first we have to understand properly whether there is a chance of a common programme.'

Mr Berlusconi indicated that the deputy prime minister could be nominated by the League, and that Gianfranco Fini, leader of the neo- Fascist-dominated National Alliance (AN) would not be in the cabinet, though other members would. The federalist League is at daggers drawn with the nationalist AN.

He gave the impression that the League's demand for a federal state may also be be less of an obstacle than it originally seemed. 'We spoke of the need to reorganise the state with administrative, political and fiscal decentralisation,' he said.

They had to go into the question of federalism more deeply, he said, but added: 'There is no resistance on our side to a certain kind of federalism such as that in Germany or Switzerland. Even Mr Fini talked of decentralisation. Certainly the unity of the country is not in question.'

It was possible, Mr Bossi believed, 'to give the country a good government, capable of working with efficiency and determination. This is happening, we will do it and do it soon' he said. He said he was in touch with members of other parties whose ideas were close to the League's own. Mr Berlusconi would need one or two of the smaller parties as allies to command an absolute majority in the Senate. He already has one in the Chamber of Deputies.

Mino Martinazzoli, the craggy- faced former Christian Democrat who had struggled hard to clean up and re-launch the rump of his party under the name of the Popular Party, yesterday resigned after the PPI's poor showing at the elections. The PPI got only 46 seats. Mr Martinazzoli, one of the very few former Christian Democrat leaders still to be respected and regarded as totally honest, had not run for parliament and had already made it clear that he might go after the elections.

Achille Occhetto, leader of the former Communist PDS, asked whether he would resign after his alliance's defeat, stated firmly that he had no such intention. 'What would be the logic of it?' Mr Occhetto asked.

Mr Occhetto forecast that the Freedom Alliance would fall apart before it could form a government, and predicted Italy would soon be back at the polls.

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