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The BBC's Brian Barron reports
"Never before in modern Europe has a Prime Minister prepared for office still owning vast chunks of the country's media"
 real 56k

Carlo Deblasio is a Rai news editor
"The relationship between the government and Rai is quite strong"
 real 28k

Giuliano Ferrara, friend of Silvio Berlusconi
"There is already a law in Parliament concerning conflicts of interests"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Berlusconi wins two-house majority
Silvio Berlusconi on television after his election victory
Berlusconi: Government like an "efficient engine"
Billionaire businessman Silvio Berlusconi has won a majority in both houses of the Italian parliament.

An ugly situation has arisen in Italy - and Europe. Racist and intolerant forces have come into power again.

Swedish newspaper Expressen
Interior Ministry figures give his House of Freedoms coalition 368 seats in the 630-seat lower house and 177 in the 315-seat senate.

It remains unclear whether Mr Berlusconi will have to rely on the support of the anti-immigrant Northern League, a member of the coalition which did much worse than expected.

In a televised address on Monday he promised a government that would work like an "efficient engine".

"We are proud to be part of the European Union and to have a special relationship with the United States. We will work to reinforce those ties," he said.

Italy's EU partners have expressed concern over Mr Berlusconi's coalition allies, especially Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, renowned for his xenophobic views.

The Northern League has been completely ousted from the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, after failing to cross the 4% threshold necessary to gain one of the 155 seats available through proportional representation.

However, it said on Monday it expected to hold 16 or 17 seats in the senate.

If true, this would make it a vital partner for Mr Berlusconi, who would otherwise be without the 163 seats needed for a majority.

Confirmation of the exact division of seats in the senate is expected later on Tuesday.

Hopes for stability

The weakening of the League would pave the way for a more stable Italian leadership.

Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi's media interests alarm many
It was this party that brought down Mr Berlusconi's first government in 1994 after only seven months.

Mr Berlusconi would also have a greater chance of meeting his pledge that his government will stay in power for its full five-year term. Italy has had 58 governments since World War II.

His other ally, the National Alliance - heir to Mussolini's fascist movement - captured 12% of the vote.

European caution

US President George Bush congratulated Mr Berlusconi and the State Department said Washington hoped to "enjoy a co-operation and fruitful relationship" with his government.

Berlusconi's pledges
Sweeping tax cuts
Reform of state bureaucracy
New curbs on immigration
Public works programme

A US official noted that the United States had worked well Mr Berlusconi's first government in 1994.

But Italy's European, mostly socialist neighbours, remained nervous at the prospect of a Berlusconi administration.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said his government would be "attentive and, if need be, vigilant", over the Italian regime.

Francesco Rutelli
Mr Rutelli said the centre-right bloc's victory was "legitimate"
"An ugly situation has arisen in Italy - and Europe," the Swedish tabloid Expressen wrote. "Racist and intolerant forces have come into power again."

And Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider was quick to congratulate the new Italian prime minister.

France's European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici ruled out sanctions similar to those it had meted out to Austria. Mr Moscovici said the cases were "not comparable".

Media empire

There has also been criticism in Europe over the media mogul's vast business interests and numerous criminal charges brought against him, including tax fraud, bribery and illegal party funding, which he denies.

The election was seen as almost a referendum on Mr Berlusconi's personality and character.

His critics are alarmed that victory will grant him effective control of state-run television, to add to the three private TV channels and other media outlets he owns.

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15 May 01 | Europe
Berlusconi lays out big plans
14 May 01 | Europe
Temperatures rise in chaotic poll
11 May 01 | Media reports
'Life is not beautiful' if Berlusconi wins
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