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Italy elections may see Berlusconi back

  • Story Highlights
  • Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has dissolved parliament on Wednesday
  • The move paves the way for new elections that must be held within 70 days
  • Former PM Silvio Berlusconi will likely win the vote against Walter Veltroni
  • Berlusconi's party is currently the most popular party in Italian opinion polls
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From CNN's Hada Messia
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Unable to form a new government, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano dissolved parliament Wednesday, paving the way for new elections that could see a return to power by former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

The move comes nearly two weeks after Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi lost a vote of confidence and stepped down from power.

Trying to avoid new elections, Napolitano called on Italian Senate Speaker Franco Marini -- whom he appointed last week -- to form an interim government, but Marini was unable to do so.

The Cabinet later set the election date for April 13-14. Video Watch as Berlusconi bounces back »

Berlusconi's challenger will be Veltroni, the current mayor or Rome. By Italian standards, at 52, he is a young politician.

"Veltroni and Berlusconi share the ability to speak directly to the people, avoiding complicated political lingo that often bores voters and supporters. He will put up a formidable challenge against Berlusconi, but still he is unlikely to win," says CNN's Rome bureau chief Alessio Vinci.

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A reason for this is Italy's election law, which President Napolitano has been trying to reform and many blame for the continual breakdown of the nation's governments.

"One of the reasons for political instability is the current electoral law, which is highly proportional and allows small parties with minimal representation to become king makers in any coalition government," Vinci says.

The election law allows for proportional representation in the Senate, giving even the smallest parties potentially the same power as Italy's largest parties.

"Prodi needed nine political parties to muster enough support to run a government. They often squabbled, bickered and struggled to remain united," Vinci says.

Prodi's government -- which had been in office for 20 months -- fell late last month when he lost his slim Senate majority after a small centrist Catholic party withdrew from his coalition government.

Veltroni has promised voters he will not seek a similar coalition with small parties (like Communists and Greens for example) and therefore he will run alone.

However Berlusconi will lead a center-right coalition, so even if Veltroni receives more votes than Berlusconi he will still have less votes than his opponent, who is running together with allies of his former government.

Until now, Napolitano has rejected a demand from former Prime Minister Berlusconi, Italy's richest man, that he call new elections.


Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia party is currently the most popular party in Italian opinion polls, but they may indicate that Italian's are becoming further disilllusioned by Italian politics.

"Polls may suggest that Berlusconi will likely win this election, but they also indicate that Italians are fed up with politics, politicians and their perceived inability to care about the country's needs," says Vinci. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci and Hada Messia contributed to this report.

All About Romano ProdiGiorgio NapolitanoItalyPolitics

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