Italian minister foresees February general election

Rome, Dec 6 (IANS/AKI) A member of Premier Matteo Renzi’s outgoing government on Tuesday predicted that Italy could have a general election as early as February after the resounding “No” vote on Renzi’s constitutional reforms.

“I forecast the will to go to the polls in February,” Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

He was speaking after Renzi said he would step down following Sunday’s referendum in which 60 percent of Italians voted against his proposals to strengthen the central government’s powers and rein in the upper house of parliament and the regions.

“Faced with this (referendum) result, (Renzi’s) resignation and early elections seemed inevitable.

“But clearly, it is up to the head of state (Sergio) Mattarella to decide on this, not us,” Alfano said.

Alfano, who heads a small centre-right party that is a crucial part of Renzi’s ruling coalition, said he made his forecast after discussing the issue with Renzi.

Mattarella has asked Renzi to stay on as Prime Minister until the Italian parliament approves the budget law, possibly by Wednesday.

Renzi’s ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is due to meet on Thursday to discuss the referendum defeat.

Renzi had staked his political future on the outcome of the referendum, but is still leader of the PD, which has the largest number of lawmakers, so it is unlikely any new government can be formed without his backing.

Italy’s two largest opposition parties, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the anti-immigrant Northern League are both demanding snap elections.

Italy’s constitutional court is expected to rule in January on the legitimacy of the current electoral law, which gives a large bonus of seats in the lower house of parliament to the party winning the biggest share of votes in order to ensure it a governing majority.

At present, two different systems are in place for the lower and the upper houses of parliament, which is widely viewed as a recipe for political instability.