ROME, April 29 - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Saturday he
would resign, ending three weeks of wrangling over a narrow election defeat and
clearing the political decks for Romano Prodi to take power.
Berlusconi, who had previously alleged election fraud and refused to formally
concede defeat after April 9-10 polls, would hand his resignation to President
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on Tuesday after a scheduled cabinet meeting, officials
Prodi's centre-left coalition, ranging from communists to centrist Roman
Catholics, won the election by the smallest margin in modern Italian history and
will have to find quick remedies for a struggling economy andwayward public
Many political commentators are sceptical he will govern for long, especially
after his coalition displayed embarrassing disunity on Friday and Saturday,
needing four votes to get its candidate elected president of parliament's upper
"The Prodi government, if it ever sees the light of day, will have to get
used to living with an abacus in its hands," the leftist La Repubblica newspaper
said after the coalition failed to unite round Franco Marini in the first three
The centre-left has only a two-seat majority in the Senate but should be able
to count on support from several life-senators appointed by the president, not
elected. Prodi's majority is bigger in the lower house Chamber of Deputies.
"Yes," an official at Berlusconi's office said when asked whether the prime
minister, Italy's richest man and a media magnate, had decided to quit after
leading Italy for five years with a centre-right cabinet.
Berlusconi won power in 2001 promising an economic miracle of tax cuts, an
infrastructure boom and economic growth of around 4 percent per year. But in
2005 the economy failed to grow for the second time in three years.
The public deficit has exceeded the European Union's 3 percent of GDP ceiling
for the last three years, with the trend worsening as one-off deficit plugs have
run out. The 2005 deficit of 4.1 percent of GDP was the highest since 1996.