Rome

Govt threatened as Berlusconi's party, PD clash on elections

Big dispute over whether to combine national, regional votes

Govt threatened as Berlusconi's party, PD clash on elections

Rome, November 15 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party on Thursday told the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) to drop its opposition to holding three regional elections together with next year's national vote or risk seeing Premier Mario Monti's government collapse. The centre-right PdL is reportedly considering withdrawing its support from Monti's emergency technocrat administration unless regional elections in Lazio, Lombardy and Molise are combined with national elections next spring. Lazio and Lombardy need early elections because their administrations were recently scratched after PdL governors Renata Polverini and Roberto Formigoni resigned amid corruption scandals, while last year's election in Molise was annulled because of voting irregularities. The PdL, the centrist UDC and the Northern League say they want the national and regional votes combined to save money and prevent the next six months becoming one long election campaign. "A lot depends on (PD Secretary Pier Luigi) Bersani," said PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano when asked about the possibility of his party causing a government crisis by withdrawing its support from Monti's emergency technocrat administration. "(It depends on) whether he wants to put a tax of 100 million euros on the shoulders of the Italian people," he added, referring to his estimate of the extra cost of holding regional and national elections separately. "The government has a cabinet meeting tomorrow. We'll evaluate the executive's decisions. "Let's hope that the government halts this tax that Bersani wants". The national elections are not expected to take place until April and the PD says elections are needed in the three regions before then to fill a vacuum of governance. The centre-left party also wants to vote soon to take advantage of the lead it has in the opinion polls and it hopes success in the regions will give it momentum for the national vote. On Thursday Bersani played down the danger that Monti's government could be brought down before the end of its term because of the row. "I hope there won't be a government crisis and I don't think there will be," Bersani said. He added that the parties must overcome the current stall in negotiations for a new election law to replace the much criticised system in place at the moment. "If you want to consider the hypothesis of bringing forward the national elections, you have to proceed with changing the electoral law and not cause controversy," Bersani said. Curiously, the PdL fought hard when it was in power last year to have four referenda on issues including nuclear energy and the privatisation of water companies to be held separately from local elections. On that occasion the PD wanted the votes lumped together to save public money.

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