Four ministers to quit Italian government

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi
Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi Reuters/ Stefano Rellandini

Four ministers were set to resign from the Italian government on Monday in a move that confirms a break with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition, but one that will not automatically topple it.


The four - Europe Minister Andrea Ronchi, Deputy Economic Development Minister Adolfo Urso and two junior ministers - are supporters of speaker of parliament Gianfranco Fini, a former ally of Berlusconi turned rival.

"We propose a new government, a new majority, a new agenda for reform ... Berlusconi is holing himself up in his palace like in a bunker," Urso said in an interview on the news channel SkyTG24 ahead of the announcement.

RFI correspondent Sabina Castelfranco says Berlusconi could chose to resign. "Berlusconi could opt to resign and discuss a new government with a new platform," he says, "that's what Fini has been calling for."

Correspondent Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome

"Alternatively, Berlusconi could resign and call for early general elections," Castelfranco says, "this is certainly not something the country needs but it may be the only option."

Italo Bocchino, a spokesman for Fini's Future and Freedom movement, said in an interview with La Stampa daily that there should now be a national unity government without Berlusconi that could include the centre-left opposition.

"We have to look without prejudice and an open mind to the opposition, which should be brought into a national unity government," he said.

Fini called on Berlusconi to resign earlier this month and threatened to pull ministers loyal to him out of the government if he did not.

Berlusconi fought back, vowing to hold confidence votes in parliament and to fight off his rivals in parliamentary elections if needed.

Despite the political wrangling expected in the coming days, the consensus among experts is that Berlusconi's government - in place since 2008 elections - will eventually fall long before its mandate runs out in 2013.


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