30 Sep 2013

Italian PM to call vote of confidence

11:14 pm on 30 September 2013

The Italian Prime Minister says he is calling a vote of confidence in parliament on Wednesday, in an attempt to avoid fresh elections just seven months after the last polls.

The announcement comes after Enrico Letta held talks with the President, Giorgio Napolitano, following the collapse of his governing coalition.

Mr Letta hopes that by taking soundings in parliament, his party's members might find a way either to patch up the current government's majority or put together a new administration without the need for a new vote.

The crisis developed after ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's ministers left the coalition government.

Mr Napolitano hinted on Saturday that he would try to oversee the formation of a new coalition without calling elections.

The current coalition government was put together after inconclusive elections in February.

"We need a parliament that discusses and works, not that breaks up every now and then," said Mr Napolitano.

"We do not need continuous election campaigns, we need continuity of the government's actions, decisions and its measures to resolve.''

The BBC reports it is feared that the crisis could hamper efforts to enact reforms to tackle debt, recession and high youth unemployment.

Mr Letta, of the Democratic Party, warned late on Friday that he would quit unless the coalition cabinet wins a confidence vote this week.

Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom party objects to a planned increase in sales tax, which is part of wider government policy to reduce big public debts.

The BBC reports Mr Berlusconi's legal problems are seen as a cause of much of the tension inside the coalition.

A committee of the Senate is to decide this week if he should be expelled after the Supreme Court recently upheld a conviction for tax fraud. He was sentenced to a year in prison.

It was his first conviction to be confirmed on appeal in two decades of fighting legal cases.

Mr Napolitano is expected to meet Mr Letta later on Sunday.