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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Migrant vote call sparks Italy spat
Gianfranco Fini
Fini says immigrants who pay tax should be entitled to vote
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has denied reports of deep differences within his government, after a fresh row erupted between warring right-wing coalition partners.

The row began after Gianfranco Fini of the National Alliance suggested the idea of limited voting rights for some immigrants.

The proposal sparked a furious response from Umberto Bossi of the far-right Northern League.

He threatened to quit the government if the proposal was adopted.

The coalition is united over fundamental values
Silvio Berlusconi
"Everything will go - the government will fall and we'll be headed for early elections," he said.

Mr Berlusconi, on a visit to Ukraine, stepped in to declare that his coalition was not in disarray.

"The coalition is united over fundamental values," Mr Berlusconi said. "The coalition cannot but be united: (otherwise) it would be proof of irresponsibility."

Umberto Bossi
Fini can say what he likes, but he should know that if he carries on in that direction, he'll be headed straight into a brick wall,
Umberto Bossi
Mr Bossi's party, accused by some of xenophobia, takes a tough line on immigration.

Mr Bossi was quoted earlier this year as suggesting that immigrant boats should be blown out of the water, although he later insisted he was misquoted.

Mr Fini himself has not previously been noted for liberal views on immigration. He and Mr Bossi co-authored a law last year cracking down on illegal immigration, and his comments on the possible right to vote surprised many observers.

Other members of his post-fascist party said they disagreed with the idea, but the centre-left opposition and some unions welcomed the proposal.

"From my perspective, the time has come to discuss giving immigrants who live, work and pay taxes in Italy... the right of administrative voting," Mr Fini said in a statement.

It is a fist in the stomach for the National Alliance, a finger in the eye of Umberto Bossi, and a blow to Silvio Berlusconi's heart
La Repubblica newspaper
The constitution currently allows only Italian citizens to vote.

Mr Bossi insisted there would be no change.

"Fini can say what he likes, but he should know that if he carries on in that direction, he'll be headed straight into a brick wall," he was quoted as saying in La Stampa newspaper.

"In our electoral pact, there was a law on immigration, there would be no vote for immigrants."

La Repubblica newspaper said the fresh row was "a fist in the stomach for the National Alliance, a finger in the eye of Umberto Bossi, and a blow to Silvio Berlusconi's heart."




SEE ALSO:
Sicily's sorry tide of migrants
08 Aug 03  |  Europe
Italy in 'fire on migrants' row
16 Jun 03  |  Europe
Berlusconi's awkward ally
20 May 03  |  Europe
Bossi rocks Italian Government
05 Apr 03  |  Europe
Profile: Berlusconi's allies
04 May 01  |  Europe


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