'If the League does not get the Interior Ministry it means they don't trust the League - and this means they don't trust it in government,' said Roberto Maroni, a League leader who is tipped for the post himself. 'At this point I do not see why we should participate in a government which does not think us reliable.'
The Interior Ministry controls the police and the civilian secret service. But this interests the federalist League less than its control over regional and local administrations which it aims to loosen as much as possible to give them greater autonomy.
The League is demanding that this area be hived off and put under a future 'Ministry for Local Autonomies', but this will take time and major legislation. 'Our presence in the Viminale (the Interior Ministry headquarters) guarantees that we will get the reform. If any one else goes there the reform will take until the year 2023,' he said.
The issue was one of the remaining problems expected to be hammered out at a coalition summit in Mr Berlusconi's Rome apartment later last night. Mr Berlusconi, conciliatory as ever, sought to play down the problem. It was difficult to change things which had become consolidated with time, he said. But he added 'I think there will be no particular resistance in the end.'
The day of reckoning for 15 former members of parliament, including the former Christian Democrat minister Paolo Cirino Pomicino, and Paolo Pillitteri, the son-in-law of Bettino Craxi and the former Socialist Mayor of Milan, drew closer when a Milan magistrate ordered their passports confiscated to prevent them skipping the country during corruption investigations.