Italian government in turmoil as Catholic party withdraws support

The Italian Government has been thrown into a tailspin after the small Catholic party Udeur - whose alliance with the Prime Minster ensures his slender majority - withdrew from the coalition.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi (pictured) will go before parliament today to try to avert a crisis however, his chances of success appear slim.

Reuters reports the defection of the Catholic party and its decision to no longer back the centre-left Government had put the Prime Minister in a corner and prompted opposition calls for him to step down immediately.

Despite reports Prodi was calm, Clemente Mastella, who heads the Catholic party - and whose three seat have kept the PM afloat so far - appeared in no mood for compromise.

"This majority does not exist any more, this centre-left is finished. We're for elections."

The most likely scenarios if Mr Prodi is forced to resign are early elections or the forming of an interim government to revamp election laws blamed for Italy's political instability.

Such a government would need widespread, cross-party support, which is far from guaranteed.

Prodi fights collapse of Italian Government (The Age 22/01/08)

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Romano Prodi

23 Jan 2008