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Italian PM 'should resign' after referendum result

Four proposals rejected in 57% voter turnout

13 June, 18:48
Italian PM 'should resign' after referendum result (ANSA) - Rome, June 13 - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and his ministers should resign following their failure to block four nationwide referendums, centre-left opposition leader Pier Luigi Bersani said on Monday.

"At this point they should resign, hand over matters to the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and create a new situation," said Bersani, head of the Democratic Party.

Berlusconi suffered his second blow in two weeks as a quorum of voters turned out to reject four of the government's legislative proposals presented - two on the privatisation of water, one proposing a return to nuclear energy and a final proposal allowing the premier to miss trial hearings.

According to the latest figures gathered by the interior ministry, around 57% of voters turned out to cast their ballot on the referendums. Bersani said the result was clear evidence of a political crisis and the government was out of touch with public opinion.

"This has been a referendum on the divorce between the government and the country," he said.

Berlusconi said the government and parliament welcomed the response to the four referendums.

"The high turnout demonstrates the will of Italians to participate in the decisions of our future and that cannot be ignored," Berlusconi said in a statement.

"For those who believe that a referendum is not the most suitable instrument for dealing with complex issues, the will of Italians is clear on all the topics of consultation".

Berlusconi's coalition partner, Umberto Bossi from the Northern League, was meeting leaders from his party including Interior Minister Roberto Maroni to discuss the result late Monday.

Simplification Minister Roberto Calderoli, from the League, said this was the second "slap in the face" for the government following the recent upset in local elections two weeks ago.

"I don't want these slaps in the face to become a habit," he said. Antonio Di Pietro, head of the small left-leaning Italy of Values Party, called the referendum result "an irreversible victory" but fell short of calling for the premier's resignation.

"Calling for the premier's resignation is exploitation," he said. "We said no to the nuclear question and established a sacrosanct principle in Article 3 of the Constitution: the law is equal for all".

Voting began early Sunday and closed at 3 pm on Monday. A quorum of 50% + 1 was required to validate the vote.

The final outcome of the four ballots was expected to be confirmed later on Monday.

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