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December 6, 2021

Italy president considers options after cabinet collapse

Berlusconi’s ministers quit as response to the government’s decision to increase in sales tax from next month.
Italy’s president is considering ways out of an acute political crisis after ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi’s ministers left the coalition government, BBC reports.
Giorgio Napolitano (photo) hinted that he would try to oversee the formation of a new coalition without calling elections.
This follows weeks of worsening ties between Berlusconi’s party and PM Enrico Letta’s centre-left grouping.
Berlusconi had already threatened to withdraw his ministers if he was expelled from the Senate for tax fraud.
The current coalition government was put together after inconclusive elections in February, and the latest developments cast a further shadow over Italy’s struggling economy, the eurozone’s third-largest.
It is feared that the crisis could hamper efforts to enact badly-needed reforms to tackle Italy’s economic problems, including debt, recession and high youth unemployment.
The International Monetary Fund has warned that coalition tensions represent a risk to the Italian economy.
Speaking on Saturday, President Napolitano called for political continuity in the country. “We need a parliament that discusses and works, not that breaks up every now and then,” he said. “We do not need continuous election campaigns, we need continuity of the government’s actions, decisions and its measures to resolve the problems of this country.”
Italy is now in very uncertain political terrain, and at times like this its head of state becomes a hugely important figure, the BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome reports.
Later on Sunday, Mr Napolitano was expected to meet Mr Letta, and their talks were closely watched for the first indications as to how this crisis will play out, our correspondent says.
Mr Letta, of the centre-left Democratic Party, warned late on Friday that he would quit unless his coalition cabinet won a confidence vote due next week.
But Berlusconi pre-empted that, describing Mr Letta’s comments as “unacceptable”. He later said all five ministers of his People of Freedom (PDL) party were resigning.
The PDL is objecting to a planned increase in sales tax, which is part of wider government policy to reduce big public debts.
Interior Minister and PDL Secretary Angelino Alfano accused Mr Letta of “a grave violation of the pacts that this government is founded on”. But the prime minister responded angrily to the resignations, accusing the PDL leader of telling Italians a “huge lie” in using the sales tax as an alibi for his own personal concerns.
“In parliament, everyone will have to assume responsibility for their actions before the nation.” Berlusconi’s legal problems are seen as a cause of much of the tension inside the coalition. A committee of the Senate decides next week if he should be expelled after the Supreme Court recently upheld his conviction for tax fraud.

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