VIENNA (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Wednesday he was confident that problems threatening his fragile coalition government, which is struggling to meet demands from Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right, can be overcome.
“I am sure that everyone will do their part to get out of this difficulty, which I think can be overcome,” Letta said during a visit to Austria, where he emphasized Italy’s need for political stability to protect the first signs it could be returning to economic growth after its longest post-war recession.
Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud has threatened the stability of the government, with the former prime minister’s center-right People of Freedom (PDL) party demanding guarantees for his political future.
On Wednesday Italian press reported that PDL leaders would present a list of demands to Letta as the price for continuing to support an awkward coalition of traditional rivals, forced to rule together to end months of post-election stalemate in April.
In autumn Berlusconi, a four-time prime minister, faces a vote in the Senate on whether to remove him from parliament and prevent him from standing for election.
The 76-year-old billionaire recently re-launched Forza Italia, the party that first swept him to victory in 1994. His allies are lobbying hard to guarantee his freedom to campaign, desperate to protect a charismatic leader who has dominated Italian politics for almost two decades.
Reporting by Naomi O'Leary, editing by Philip Pullella