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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 12:30 GMT
Italy's ex-PM urges snap election
Forza Italia party leader Silvio Berlusconi. File photo
Polls suggest a snap election could see a Silvio Berlusconi comeback
Italy's former prime minister has called for snap elections to end a political crisis in the country.

Silvio Berlusconi, who now heads the centre-right opposition, made the demand during crisis talks with President Giorgio Napolitano.

Centre-left PM Romano Prodi resigned last week after losing a vote of confidence in the parliament.

President Napolitano must now decide whether to call for elections or the formation of a new government.

We think that there is no other way to go than back to the ballot box
Silvio Berlusconi

Mr Napolitano, who has been holding the crisis talks with political leaders since Friday, is said to favour an interim government to push through much-needed electoral reforms.

The talks end later on Tuesday, and the president is then expected to announce his decision within days.

Electoral reform

"We think that there is no other way to go than back to the ballot box to give the country an operational government as quickly as possible," Mr Berlusconi said after meeting with Napolitano.

The leader of the Forza Italia party and other conservative politicians do not want the president to form a transitional government, as some election polls suggest a snap election could see Mr Berlusconi's comeback.

However, there is widespread agreement among several senior senators - even among Mr Prodi's opponents - that the country needs new electoral laws, the BBC's Christian Fraser in Rome says.

Romano Prodi 24 January
Romano Prodi is currently staying on in a caretaker capacity

Under the current system, implemented by Mr Berlusconi during his time as prime minister, smaller parties with only a handful of seats hold the balance of power in parliament.

This is what caused the current crisis, our correspondent says.

The loss of the small, centrist Udeur party's three seats in the upper house, the Senate, left Mr Prodi's coalition without a majority and requiring the support of several unelected life senators.

In the vote, Mr Prodi's government fell four votes short of the 160 it needed to survive, with 161 senators voting against and one abstention.

Mr Prodi, who led his coalition for 20 months, has been asked to continue as prime minister in a caretaker capacity until Mr Napolitano's announcement.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Italy's president on the political crisis



SEE ALSO
Italy PM faces confidence votes
22 Jan 08 |  Europe
Profile: Romano Prodi
24 Jan 08 |  Europe
Country profile: Italy
25 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

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