The prospect of early elections in Italy is growing after Silvio Berlusconi vowed to appeal to President Giorgio Napolitano to remove his bitter rival Gianfranco Fini from office.
The prime minister’s move, asking the head of state to strip his one-time ally of his parliamentary job, means the prospect of a compromise is fading.
Berlusconi’s Northern League coalition partner Umberto Bossi has come on board following a meeting between the two on Monday night.
The manoevring follows Fini’s scathing attack on Berlusconi at the weekend, in which he said the party they co-founded no longer existed.
The prime minister’s supporters are turning on Fini too.
“The House Speaker is a referee first and foremost,” said Gaetano Quagliarello of Berlusconi’s PDL party, referring to Fini’s role. “In this case, though, the referee has put the t-shirt on, he’s come onto the field and has started playing against his original team.”
Fini’s allies and the centre-left opposition have rejected the idea that the President can dismiss the speaker. Berlusconi’s been accused of violating the constitution.
Alessandro Maran of the Partito Democratic (Democratic Party) said:
“We’re dealing with a new institutional error. Never before has the Prime Minister gone to the President together with a government minister to try to kick the House Speaker out of office”.
Berlusconi’s split with Fini left his government without a secure majority. With parliament about to resume business after the summer break, the estranged pair could be heading for a decisive showdown.