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Europe

Former Berlusconi ally urges beleaguered leader to bow out

A former ally to Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi has lambasted the prime minister over recent scandals and called on him to step down. Gianfranco Fini said he might pull his supporters out of the government.

Gianfranco Fini, left and Silvio Berlusconi

Fini, left, was Berlusconi's foreign minister and deputy prime minister

A former key ally to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Sunday urged the embattled leader to step down and facilitate discussions for a new government.

"If Berlusconi wants to show his love for the country ... the right thing to do is for him to resign, trigger a crisis and start a new phase in which the center-right program and agenda is quickly re-discussed and we take stock of the whole situation," said Gianfranco Fini, who co-founded Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party but broke away to form his own political grouping last July.

"We need a new agenda, a new program. The center-right that existed when the PDL was founded does not exist any more," he said at a conference of his new political movement.

Fini said that if the prime minister did not step aside, members of his rival party would resign from the current government.

One minister, one deputy minister and two undersecretaries are members of Fini's party. Around 40 lawmakers from the lower and upper houses of parliament have gone over to Fini's side since July. Their defection, if finalized, would rob Berlusconi of a governing majority in parliament.

Fini urged Berlusconi "not to listen to the bad advice of which he has been getting a lot recently" and to start negotiations for a new center-right government that would aim to last until the end of the current legislature in 2013.

Scandal after scandal

posters ridiculing Berlusconi

Hundreds of posters ridiculing Berlusconi over the latest scandals have gone up in Italy

Berlusconi has come under increasing pressure over a series of sex and corruption scandals. In a recent speech, Fini referred to the "moral decadence" in Italy society and said that "public figures should be examples."

Of late, the Italian prime minister has been engulfed in a scandal over his ties to an underage Moroccan girl and alleged encounters with a prostitute.

"The government is not governing," Fini said, adding that the ruling coalition "has lost sight of the path to build today a country for tomorrow."

Fini added, however, that he would still take part in a political alliance with Berlusconi if the latter made several concessions, including a new program to help the south of the country and boost employment, and a reform of the electoral law.

Berlusconi himself was cited by Italian news agencies as saying that he had no intention of resigning.

Author: Darren Mara (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Kyle James

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