* Two polls show public against immunity law
* Only quarter wants early elections
* PM’s aides refloat immunity for parliament
ROME, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Most Italians agree with a court decision to strip Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of immunity from prosecution but only a minority want to cut short his term and hold early elections, according to new polls out on Sunday.
Berlusconi was furious about a Constitutional Court verdict this week removing his immunity, which meant cases for fraud and corruption linked to his Mediaset business empire can proceed.
The 73-year-old conservative leader accused the top court, the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and the media of being part of a leftist conspiracy to bring about his downfall.
But two new opinion polls suggest that the country, which elected him for a third term last year, has little sympathy with his legal predicament or with his attack on the head of state.
In an IPR poll published by Ansa news agency, 59 percent of people agreed with the court decision, two thirds thought the court was impartial, 72 percent believed the former communist head of state Napolitano was impartial and six out of 10 believed that Berlusconi had overreacted.
But only a quarter favoured cutting short Berlusconi’s term, due to end in 2013, and holding early elections. His own allies and the opposition also rule out this option for the time being.
In an ISPO poll for Corriere della Sera newspaper 72 percent disagreed with the immunity law, which was one of Berlusconi’s first acts on taking power last year. The court said it violated the basic principle of everyone being equal before the law.
“Italians do not like privileges being given to political leaders,” said ISPO’s Renato Mannheimer. “This could signal the start of a more general disaffection or, morel likely, an isolated reaction to a particular item of legislation.”
But Mannheimer said Berlusconi’s approval rating appeared to remain just below 50 percent, where it as been in recent months since his divorce and scandals about prostitutes eroded some of his support among Catholic and women voters in particular.
Despite the unpopularity of the failed immunity law, some Berlusconi aides are already proposing another immunity law, this time benefiting everyone in parliament rather than just the president, prime minister and two speakers as the last one did.
The premier, whose family owns the biggest private television broadcaster in Italy plus a newspaper, magazines, publishing and AC Milan football club, says he needs immunity because “biased” public prosecutors persecute him via his business dealings.
Berlusconi wants to reform the justice system to reduce the independence of the prosecutors and their links to the judges.
“In many democracies there is no need of such a law (on immunity) because in France and England prosecutors are not autonomous and independent ... but subordinate to the justice minister and the executive,” Berlusconi told a rally.
Centre-left opposition leader Dario Franceschini said that, after the clear ruling by the highest court in the land, it was “an insult” for Berlusconi to refloat immunity proposals.
But the prime minister dismissed Franceschini’s Democratic Party as “the same old communists as ever” and said their real leader was “the editor of l’Espresso”, a critical news magazine owned by his old rival Carlo De Benedetti.
De Benedetti also owns left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica which is being sued by Berlusconi for its coverage of the sex scandals besetting the prime minister.
Berlusconi's holding company Fininvest [FIN.UL], via which he controls broadcaster Mediaset MS.MI, is reeling from being ordered by a court to pay pay 750 million euros ($1.1 billion) in damages to De Benedetti's CIR CIRX.MI for bribing a judge in a 1990s publishing takeover battle. [ID:nLA72616]
Writing by Stephen Brown; editing by Robin Pomeroy
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