ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s Prime Minister Romano Prodi on Thursday dismissed a call by disaffected centrists in his coalition to resign and said he would only go if parliament forces him out.
At an annual end-year news conference Prodi said he was unperturbed by the latest attack from within his fragile centre-left coalition. He has already been forced to resign once since being elected with a slim majority in April 2006.
“Governments are brought down by votes of no confidence. There are no other instruments, not interviews, not declarations,” Prodi said.
“We were elected with a mandate, with a coalition, with a job to do and that is what the government is doing,” he told the news conference where he gave an upbeat assessment of the economy and vowed to boost spending power for poorer families.
But many political pundits believe this will be the last time Prodi celebrates a New Year in office amid rising tensions in his nine-party Catholics-to-communists coalition.
The latest attack came from Lamberto Dini, a centrist former prime minister who could destroy Prodi’s majority in the upper house if he pulled his tiny Liberal Democrat party out of the coalition.
“It’s not just the opposition that would like this government to quit — the Italian people are calling for it,” Dini said in a newspaper interview where he called for a new ‘grand coalition’ government which would include parties currently in opposition and exclude the far left.
When asked whether he should resign from Prodi’s coalition, he replied: “It is the government which has lost the consensus of the citizens which should resign.”
Prodi stepped down in February when leftists refused to back his foreign policy, but he returned to office after winning a confidence vote when the dissidents came into line for fear of letting opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi back into power.
Dini has so far backed Prodi in the more than 20 confidence votes he has put before the Senate to ensure legislation is passed, but he said his vote can no longer be guaranteed.
Prodi plans to hold talks with party leaders in his coalition on January 10 to discuss the government’s future.
He told the news conference one of his main policy aims for 2008 was to get a pact with employers and unions on increasing productivity, boosting pay and reducing income tax for lower wage earners.
Reporting by Robin Pomeroy