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No early elections, premier says

Berlusconi dismisses rumours, government has solid majority

19 November, 12:45
No early elections, premier says

(ANSA) - Rome, November 18 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday dismissed talk of early elections because of rifts in his centre-right coalition.

"I'm amazed over all these rumours which are spreading making it seem that we are heading towards early elections. I've never given it a thought," said the premier in a statement released by his office.

"We've received an electoral mandate to govern for the entire five years of the legislature and this is the commitment which we are determined to carry through in the country's interest".

Berlusconi said his government has a solid majority despite public flaps and differences and it enjoys huge support from voters.

"The government has a solid majority despite internal debate which in fact show its ability to generate ideas. We can count on this and the support that more than 60% of Italians (in public opinion polls) show for us to accomplish the reforms that Italy needs," he added.

Il Giornale, the daily owned by Berlusconi's brother Paolo has repeatedly urged the premier to get rid of what it terms "traitors" in the coalition by calling early elections.

Senate Speaker Renato Schifani, a long-standing friend of Berlusconi's, said on Tuesday the country should head towards early general elections if the centre-right government is unable to heal rifts and fulfil its electoral pledges.

Schifani made no direct reference to House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, who has increasingly distanced himself from Berlusconi.

Politicians, he said, should not ''betray their voters' decision'' nor ''disorient them'', a clear reference to Fini's new liberal-minded stances on immigration and constitutional and judicial reforms.

''The majority's job is to guarantee cohesiveness so that Parliament can approve its programme. If this cohesiveness goes missing, the result is that the electoral pact (with voters) cannot be fulfilled. If this happens, voters should be called on to give their decision,'' he said.

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