ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Thursday he would seek new elections if his conservative government lacks a sufficient parliamentary majority in January to be able to carry out reforms.
“If, in contrast to what we expect, we do not have a sufficient majority to govern at the end of January, I think that the best thing would be to have the chance to get a fresh majority in both houses of parliament,” Berlusconi said during an end-year news conference.
Berlusconi, who narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in parliament last week, said he had proposed the January review of the situation to his main coalition ally the Northern League.
The League has often said it believes new elections are the best solution to the political crisis, caused by a split earlier this year in Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party.
However President Giorgio Napolitano, the only figure with the power to dissolve parliament, has said repeatedly that he would only do so as a last resort, if no parliamentary majority can be found for an alternative government.
Berlusconi, who won the confidence vote by just three votes, with 314 votes to 311 in the 630 seat Chamber of Deputies, said he was confident he could broaden his majority to 325 thanks to defections from deputies currently siding with the opposition.
“There are lots of lawmakers belonging to various political forces who have reasons for dissatisfaction with the groups they belong to,” he said.
He said he believed some followers of former ally Gianfranco Fini, whose split from the PDL robed Berlusconi of a comfortable majority, would now abandon Fini and return to the PDL.
Adding to the uncertain picture, Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said on Wednesday she was pulling out of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party but would remain in his struggling centre-right government.
Berlusconi played down Prestigiacomo’s move on Thursday, saying that the issue had been resolved.
He also said that at the end of the govenment’s term of office in 2013 he hoped new centre-right leaders would emerge, allowing him to take a back-seat role limited to “making my contribution in the electoral campaign.”
Reporting by Catherine Hornby and Gavin Jones; Editing by Angus MacSwan