Letta returns to Rome to fight for coalition
FI politicians force showdown over future of government27 September, 12:19
That raised the possibility that Letta, of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), could be forced to call a confidence vote to keep his coalition with the FI alive, even as cracks were appearing Friday among Berlusconi's supporters. "Under these conditions, prolonging the agony of this government and this term does not benefit anyone, nor (benefit) Italy," hardline FI Senator Sandro Bondi said in a statement Friday.
Letta's first order of business Friday was to meet with President Giorgio Napolitano, who must ultimately decide whether to dissolve the current parliament.
On Thursday, Napolitano sent a strong message to the FI warning them that they were undermining the work of the government and denouncing their "disturbing" threats against parliament as something akin to coercion.
"The intent (of the FI threats) would constitute, or would have the effect, of striking at the root of the functionality of the (parliament)," said Napolitano.
"No less disturbing would be the intention to make such a gesture in order to exert enormous pressure on the (head of State) closer to the dissolution of Parliament".
One day earlier, FI members of both the Lower House and Senate said they were signing their resignations to take effect if a Senate panel next week votes to strip Berlusconi of his parliamentary seat after his tax-fraud conviction was upheld by the supreme court.
Yet that can be avoided, some argued.
"The way to avoid chaos" is to acknowledge that the law which would strip Berlusconi of his seat is unconstitutional, FI whips Renato Schifani and Renato Brunetta argued in an open letter to Napolitano.
Not all FI politicians want to bring down the government and have indicated they would vote to support Letta's government while continuing to press for retention of Berlusconi's seat. Others said the unprecedented left-right emergency reform government was "finished".
Such threats are destroying the Italian economy and undermining efforts to create jobs at a time of crisis, responded the secretary of the Democratic Party, Guglielmo Epifani.
However, Epifani called for a confidence vote in the government to "clear things up once and for all in parliament". Northern League leader Roberto Maroni, whose party was formerly a close ally of FI but has opposed the grand coalition, said the resignations signed by FI members were "a clear vote of no-confidence in the government and so Letta should do only one thing, give his resignation to President Napolitano".
He suggested his League parliamentarians would also be willing to resign, in support of the hardliners in the FI.