WORLD / Europe

Challenger earns narrow victory in Italy
(Reuters)
Updated: 2006-04-12 07:21

ROME - Challenger Romano Prodi's center-left coalition won a narrow victory in the Italian parliamentary election, official results showed Tuesday, but Conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi refused to concede defeat.

The Union center-left coaliton Leader Romano Prodi speaks to journalists during a press conference at his party headquarters, in Rome, Tuesday, April 11, 2006.
The Union center-left coaliton Leader Romano Prodi speaks to journalists during a press conference at his party headquarters, in Rome, Tuesday, April 11, 2006. [Reuters]
The Interior Ministry assigned Prodi's coalition an unwieldy alliance ranging from Catholics to communists four Senate seats chosen by Italians voting abroad, giving him the margin he needs to win both houses of Italy's parliament.

That did not persuade Berlusconi. "Nobody now can say they have won," he said.

He said the overseas vote that decided the final Senate seats was far from decided, and there were "many irregularities and it's possible that we won't be able to confirm that it has been a valid vote."

"We won't hesitate to recognize the political victory for our adversaries but only once the necessary legal verification procedures have been completed," he said. His camp called for a recount in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, which Prodi's forces won with a 25,000-vote margin out of 38 million ballots cast.

The Interior Ministry said the overall results must still be confirmed by Italy's highest court, and that parliament's election committees would have to rule on any challenges.

Berlusconi suggested Italy could follow Germany's lead and create a "grand coalition" of left and right if final results show neither side in control of both houses of parliament.

"I think that we maybe need to take the example of another European country, perhaps like Germany, to see if there's not a case to unify our forces to govern in agreement," he said.

Prodi dismissed Berlusconi's suggestion for a "grand coalition" and said the prime minister's complaints were "out of line."

"We went before voters with a precise coalition," the Apcom news agency quoted Prodi as saying. "We will govern" with the coalition majority, he said.

Prodi claimed victory well before the Senate figures were in, later saying he was not concerned about the call for a recount.
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