Italy calls early election in April
By ALESSANDRA RIZZO, Associated Press Writer 52
ROME - Italy's president dissolved parliament on
Wednesday, clearing the way for early elections just
two years after the last parliamentary vote.
The Cabinet set the election date for April 13-14.
President Giorgio Napolitano made the decision after
Premier Romano Prodi's center-left government fell
late last month and subsequent efforts to form an
interim government to change voting rules failed.
Prodi will continue as caretaker premier until the
Italy was plunged into political crisis after Prodi's
government collapsed Jan. 24 after only 20 months in
The legislature was the second-shortest one in Italy's
postwar history, according to Italian media.
Early elections represent a victory for Silvio
Berlusconi, the conservative leader who has repeatedly
demanded a return to the polls since the fall of
Berlusconi has firmly rejected any possibility of an
interim government. The 71-year-old former premier is
hoping for a new stint in power as domestic opinion
polls suggest his center-right coalition would win an
The center-left coalition trails in opinion polls. Its
leader and expected candidate for premier, Walter
Veltroni, had hoped to delay a vote by supporting the
possibility of an interim government.
Veltroni had been pushing for a change in the election
law before any new parliament vote is held, saying the
risk of instability is too high for whichever
coalition wins the next election.
The current law, a proportional-representation system,
was passed in the last months of Berlusconi's 2001-06
tenure but was later criticized even by its
proponents. It is widely seen as giving too much power
to small parties.
Prodi had to resign after a small centrist party
withdrew its support, causing the government to lose a
confidence vote in the Senate, where the premier's
forces had a minimal edge. Throughout his time in
office, Prodi had to mediate between positions in a
varied coalition that included several small parties.
With his role as coalition leader taken by Veltroni,
Prodi confirmed Wednesday that he would not seek a