Italy Begins To Form New Government 10/10/98

Sat Oct 10 09:13:54 PDT 1998

The Italian poltical circus continues.  How soon before Italians elect their
executive branch separately ? --
Italy Begins To Form New Government


.c The Associated Press 

ROME (AP) -- Italy's president plans talks with the nation's party leaders
next week and hopes to find someone to put together a new government after
Premier Romano Prodi's center-left coalition collapsed. 

Prodi's government lost a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies by a
single vote Friday, ending a 2 1/2-year-old administration that had been
Italy's second-longest since World War II. 

Prodi immediately submitted his resignation to President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro,
who asked him to stay on for the time being. 

Scalfaro must decide whether to call early elections -- a step few want and
few expect -- or ask Prodi or someone else to try to form a new government. 

Scalfaro scheduled talks with leaders of Parliament today, followed by
meetings with party and political leaders on Monday and Tuesday. 

After that, he will designate a potential premier who must prove capable of
commanding a majority of votes in Parliament. Prodi's office denied news
reports that he had taken himself out of the running. 

Prodi's coalition had held together during its drive to qualify for Europe's
common currency but lost momentum and fell apart after it reached its goal
earlier this year. Communists brought about its end by withdrawing support
over Prodi's 1999 budget, saying they wanted more spending for jobs. 

Their rebellion forced Friday's vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies.
Prodi lost 313-312 with the surprise defection of a lawmaker in his own

Opposition lawmakers roared their approval at the tally and burst into
applause. Prodi slipped away from the presidential palace so quickly that he
outpaced his security agents and briefly found himself facing reporters alone.
``I'm not bitter,'' he said. 

Centrist leader Francesco Cossiga appealed to leading parties of the left and
right to work together to form a caretaker government that would see Italy
through tough spots ahead, including passage of the budget. 

``I ask them because as the major political forces, only they can form a
government with the authority needed to face the delicate international
financial situation and the crisis in Kosovo,'' Cossiga said. 

Prodi presided over budget cuts and a temporary tax increase needed to get
Italy's economy in shape for the 1999 debut of Europe's common currency. It
qualified for the euro debut earlier this year, impressing -- and surprising
-- many fellow European Union members with less volatile politics. 

Prodi would have had to keep on cutting costs to stay in line with
requirements for the European Monetary Union. Communists wanted more spending,
not less. 

To woo them going into Friday's vote, Prodi pledged that his government would
work to make law a 35-hour workweek -- their pet project. 

He also held back from endorsing NATO airstrikes on Serbia without specific
backing from the U.N. Security Council, also a communist demand. 

Italy is just across the Adriatic from Yugoslavia, and its bases and ports
could be important to any NATO attack over Yugoslavia's crackdown on ethnic
Albanians in Kosovo. The fall of his government makes Italy's participation in
any attack even more of a question. 

Prodi led Italy's 55th government since World War II. He outlasted all but
Bettino Craxi, a Socialist who served 3 1/2 years in two back-to-back stints
from 1983 to 1987. 

AP-NY-10-10-98 0142EDT 

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