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Berlusconi Signals Italy Early Vote Should Be Delayed

Italian elections should be pushed back beyond the February dates being considered by the government, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said.

“This rush to go to elections is creating unnecessary pressure,” Berlusconi said during the recording last night of the “Porta a Porta” television program on state-owned RAI1.

The Italian government was seeking to set elections for Feb. 17 or Feb. 24 after Prime Minister Mario Monti his intention to resign this month in the wake of Berlusconi’s party withdrawing its support. Monti intends to step down when his budget is passed in Parliament. Under Italian law, elections would then be called within 45 to 70 days.

Berlusconi confirmed that his party proposed yesterday that the elections be pushed back at least one or two weeks.

Berlusconi’s party, Popolo della Liberta (People of Liberty), had less than 20 percent support in three opinion polls released in the past week. The three-time premier said he was confident his coalition could reach 40 percent by the time the elections are held.

Passage of the budget has been delayed. The Senate was initially due to vote on the plan Dec. 18 before it passed to the Chamber of Deputies for final approval. The Senate has yet to begin its debate on the budget, making a vote unlikely before Dec. 20. The Chamber would then have to take up the measure, meaning it would be difficult to secure final approval as planned by Dec. 21.

Fabrizio Cicchitto, chief whip of Berlusconi’s PdL party in the Chamber, said yesterda that the lower house will “take all the time necessary to examine the budget,” according to the Italian news agency Ansa.

Leaders of the Democratic Party, which leads in all opinion polls, said that Berlusconi’s party was trying to stall for time.

“They can’t use the Parliament and the budget law to solve their problems,” Ansa cited Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani as saying yesterday.

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