ROME Oct 26 Italy's political centre-right
could split, lawmakers said on Saturday, after Silvio Berlusconi
resurrected his old Forza Italia party and suspended the People
of Freedom (PDL), part of the wobbly left-right coalition
Several parliamentarians allied to the former prime minister
were critical of Berlusconi's move, and five senior PDL members
boycotted Friday's meeting where the decision was made.
Forza Italia (Go Italy!) was Berlusconi's party when he
first entered politics in 1994, and although he said it would
support the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta, just as
the PDL has done, it has caused a rift among his followers.
"My absence at the president's office was motivated by my
total opposition to the proposal to dissolve the PDL... to
return to a Forza Italia which I have never been a part of,"
Senator Carlo Giovanardi said on his website.
Giovanardi added that the centre-right could split into two
allied groups: Forza Italia led by Berlusconi and a PDL led by
its current secretary Angelino Alfano.
Alfano led an internal party revolt earlier this month that
thwarted Berlusconi's attempt to bring down Letta's coalition.
Prominent PDL official Fabrizio Cicchitto told La Repubblica
newspaper he saw the centre right becoming a "two-pole system",
and said the decision to wind down the PDL was not valid until
ratified by a vote at a Dec. 8 party conference.
In emailed statements, some lawmakers continued to sign off
as members of "People of Freedom" while others switched to use
Despite signs of strain, many party officials played down
divisions and tried to present a common front.
"The return of Forza Italia will signal a new season of
success for the centre right, Berlusconi will know how to find
unity!" former PDL Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said
Those allied with Alfano are known as "doves", seen as
moderate and more reluctant to undermine the government.
Berlusconi loyalists are described as more hardline "hawks",
who frequently threaten to bring down the government unless it
Estimates by Italian newspapers said Alfano's faction would
be big enough to keep Letta from losing his government majority
should Berlusconi's group withdraw its support.
But the turmoil could further hamper efforts by the
coalition to force through reforms and spur growth in the euro
zone's largest economy, stuck in its longest post-war recession.
Berlusconi, 77, who has dominated the political right for
two decades, faces expulsion from parliament following a tax
The media tycoon is also embroiled in other cases on charges
including corruption and paying for sex with a minor. He
maintains the trials against him are attempts by biased judges
to destroy a political opponent.