Italian President to decide on whether to call spring election

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The Independent Online

Italy's political crisis enters a decisive week with a snap election and a return to power of Silvio Berlusconi's centre right looking ever more likely after the collapse of Romano Prodi's government.

President Giorgio Napolitano granted himself a day of reflection yesterday, planning to resume consultations with political leaders on Monday and end them on Tuesday evening.

Napolitano, an 82-year-old former communist, must decide whether to dissolve parliament and call an election for the spring or mandate someone to first try to form an interim government to enact electoral reforms.

Most centre-left parties, left in tatters by the government's collapse last Thursday, favour an interim government while the centre right wants an election.

"I think Italy does not need any government of national unity but a government that will get down to work immediately after Italians vote," said Berlusconi, who stands to return to power as prime minister after his electoral defeat in 2006.

A poll in Sunday's Corriere della Sera newspaper showed 61 percent of Italians want an early election and only 33 percent prefer some form of transitional government.

The bad news for the centre left did not end there.

Polls published by Corriere showed the centre left would win between 42.4 and 45 percent of the vote while Berlusconi's centre right would win between 54.5 and 57.6 percent.

Another poll showed the centre right could end up with a majority of between 11 and 35 seats in the upper house Senate. Prodi had a wafer-thin majority in the Senate.