17th Jul 2019

Prodi steps down over foreign policy dispute

  • After nine months as Italy's Prime Minister, Romano Prodi steps down (Photo: EUobserver)

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has handed in his resignation after senators from the ruling coalition parties voted down his plans to expand a US airbase in northern Italy and keep Italian troops with NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The country's president Georgio Napolitano is scheduled on Thursday (22 February) to hold a round of crisis talks with political leaders and decide whether to call new elections or ask Mr Prodi to stay in power.

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The Italian centre-left leader indicated yesterday that he would carry on as prime minister "if, and only if, he is guaranteed the full support of all the parties in the majority from now on," his spokesman said, according to press reports.

Mr Prodi was not obliged to step down after the vote on the non-binding foreign policy motion in the Senate, the legislature's upper house, but he insisted that he needed clear support for his cabinet to pursue Italy's international commitments.

The former president of the European Commission led Italy's shaky nine-party coalition with a thin majority for nine months following last year's victory over his centre-right predecessor Silvio Berlusconi - the first leader to achieve a full parliamentary term in government after years of unstable politics in the country.

But partly due to Mr Berlusconi's changes in the electoral system, the centre-left government ruled on the basis of a thin majority - by one vote in the Senate - which also enabled Tuesday's result with the executive losing by two votes.

According to analysts, while the radical left wanted to voice its anger over foreign policy issues it did not intend to topple the government and call for a snap election - which is viewed as a signal that Mr Prodi will get another chance to form a new cabinet.

Apart from involving Mr Prodi, President Napolitano could choose a different cabinet leader from the ruling coalition or appoint a government of technocrats.

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