The heat has been turned up again in the power struggle at the heart of Italian politics, with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ready to oust his once-ally-now-bitter rival as speaker of parliament.
Berlusconi will ask President Giorgio Napolitano to dismiss Gianfranco Fini, potentially triggering an early election. It follows Fini’s scathing comments about the prime minister at the weekend. But Fini insisted elections would be a disaster for Italy.
The two men helped create Berlusconi’s ruling People of Freedom party, and the split has weakened the prime minister. His centre-right government’s future is tied to a five-point programme of reforms, but opinion polls suggest his support is waning, undermined by a sluggish economy and a series of corruption cases.