ROME Dec 12 Silvio Berlusconi will have to
withdraw his bid for a fifth term as Italy's prime minister if
he wants to seal a vital alliance with his former coalition
partners in the Northern League, the head of the regionalist
party was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
"Dear Silvio, we can't agree to it if you're in the field.
The League cannot support you if you keep up your candidacy for
prime minister," Roberto Maroni was quoted as saying in the
daily La Repubblica newspaper before a meeting with Berlusconi
late on Tuesday.
An accord between Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party
and the League is considered vital to the centre-right's bid to
prevent the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which is leading
strongly in the opinion polls, from forming a stable government.
Under Italy's complex electoral laws, the PD is expected to
win a strong majority in the Lower House but may struggle to
capture the Senate, which is elected on a local basis, with
individual battles in each region.
In past elections, the left has struggled because of its
traditional weakness in the richer and more populous northern
regions including Lombardy and Veneto, where there are more
Senate seats than in the less well-populated south.
A deal between the PDL and the League could give the
centre-right a chance of winning enough seats in the north to
prevent PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani from forming a stable
On Tuesday, Berlusconi said he was still negotiating with
the Northern League, which has been struggling to emerge from a
corruption scandal which toppled its founder Umberto Bossi, a
long-time ally of Berlusconi.
Maroni, interior minister in the Berlusconi's last
government, has always been less close to the 76 year-old media
magnate and he said the position he had taken reflected strong
resistance among grass-roots League voters.
He said the line "completely interprets the feelings of our
members, officials and parliamentarians."