A public clash of operatic proportions in Italy threatens to undermine the government.
Conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his main coalition partner went at it with a vengeance at a conference of their PDL party in Rome.
The gloves came off when Gianfranco Fini, a co-founder of the ruling Party of Freedom criticised Berlusconi’s leadership. Fini is now speaker of the Chamber of Deputies.
He accused the media mogul premier of giving too much power to the pro-autonomy Northern League, and of stifling internal party debate. When Berlusconi spoke against Fini, Fini hurled back: “What are you saying? Are you going to kick me out?”
Berlusconi said: “Last Tuesday you told me: First, that you regretted having contributed to the birth of the PDL party, and second you said: ‘I want to create a separate parliamentary group’. Make these statements as a politician but not as Speaker of the Chamber.”
Tensions between the two men have been brimming since the Northern League scored well in regional elections, shifting the balance of power in the ruling coalition.