President hints would try to avoid calling early elections
Napolitano talks of 'very Italian practice'27 September, 14:51
Napolitano and Letta are set to have talks later on Friday after most of the lawmakers from centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party wrote out their resignations from parliament this week.
The PdL members have said they will hand in the resignations if Berlusconi is stripped of his seat in the Senate after the supreme court upheld a tax-fraud conviction against the three-time premier last month, making it definitive.
Letta, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), needs the PdL's support to keep his government afloat.
If the PdL members carry through on the threat, they will probably demand Napolitano dissolve parliament and call early elections.
But the head of State, who was instrumental in orchestrating the formation of Letta's government in April to end two months of deadlock after February's inconclusive general election, has always said he is against calling new elections.
Indeed, he threatened he would resign if the parties failed to act "responsibly", when he reluctantly agreed to be re-elected president in April after lawmakers failed to agree on a successor to him.
If this happened, parliament and representatives of Italy's regional governments would have to elect a new head of State before parliament could be dissolved. On Friday Napolitano called the early end of parliamentary terms due to political crises "a very Italian practice" - a comment which was interpreted as meaning this was a bad habit that the country needs to kick. When asked if he was worried about the situation, he replied: "I can't jump for joy". If the PdL pulls out of government, the PD could try to form an alternative alliance, although the other big group in parliament, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), has repeatedly said it is not willing to join a coalition with it.