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Daily Archives: January 26, 2008


 Image  The 2007 Medals and Certificates
Conferment Ceremony was held
at the auditorium of the Cultural
Centre yesterday where more than 200
spectators witnessed the honorary moment
of 42 individuals and entities receiving
their recognition from Chief Executive
Edmund Ho Hau Wah.

Italian president opens crisis talks after Prodi resignation

President Giorgio Napolitano was to open talks on yesterday to resolve Italy's political crisis after prime minister Romano Prodi's resignation and the end of his centre-left government.

While the centre-right is clamouring for snap elections after 20 months in opposition, observers say the president is unlikely to send voters back to the ballot box before Italy's electoral law is overhauled.

Right-wing newspapers gloated over the demise of 68-year-old Prodi, the arch-rival of conservative flagbearer Silvio Berlusconi, both of them now former prime ministers twice over.

"The dream has come true," headlined Il Libero over a cartoon showing Prodi hanged by the Senate, where the prime minister lost a vote of confidence on Thursday, precipitating his resignation.

Prodi "leaves the country in tatters," the paper wrote.

The left-leaning press was more sympathetic, Ezio Mauro writing in the daily La Repubblica that the former economic professor's exit was a "strange and unjust destiny for a politician who has twice defeated Berlusconi (and) twice cleaned up the public accounts."

Berlusconi, now 71, and right-wing National Alliance leader Gianfranco Fini immediately called for fresh elections on news of the resignation.

The flamboyant Berlusconi, Italy's richest man, clearly wants to strike while the iron is hot to take advantage of the left's steep drop in popularity as Prodi, struggling to keep his squabbling coalition together, was unable to address many pocketbook issues.

But observers say Napolitano will resist calls for fresh polls.

"Both left and right know that this system creates instability," political scientist Franco Pavoncello said.

He said he "wouldn't be surprised" if Napolitano, a former communist, asked Mario Monti, a former EU commissioner for competition, or Bank of Italy chief Mario Draghi to head an interim team of technocrats.

Prodi, crippled by the defection early this week of the centrist Catholic UDEUR party, had decided to go ahead with the Senate vote despite appeals from top leaders, including Napolitano, to resign instead.

Despite a last-minute change of heart by one of UDEUR's three senators and the support of five of Italy's unelected senators for life including Nobel medicine laureate 98-year-old Rita Levi-Montalcini, Prodi fell five votes short in the upper house.

Berlusconi, who owns a vast media empire, has never come to terms with his loss by just some 24,000 votes to Prodi in the hard-fought elections of April 2006.

It was in anticipation of those elections that the Berlusconi government pushed through a new electoral law in December 2005 with the goal of limiting the extent of an expected win by the left — causing the legislative gridlock that hastened Prodi's downfall.

Berlusconi "put the seeds of its own demise in the system itself," political scientist Pavoncello said.

Prodi's second government faced a series of close votes in the upper house, falling briefly in February 2007.