Prodi does not fear reversal of Italy election results despite Berlusconi’s recount demand |

Prodi does not fear reversal of Italy election results despite Berlusconi’s recount demand

Associated Press Writer

ROME – A confident Romano Prodi insisted Wednesday that his center-left coalition’s Italian election victory was on solid ground, as Premier Silvio Berlusconi called the vote fraudulent and demanded a recount.But Berlusconi later appeared to back away from his allegation of fraud, releasing a statement late in the evening in which he said that the very thin margin of victory “requires a scrupulous check to ascertain any possible error or irregularity.””It is pointless to play with words and attribute expressions or accusations against someone,” Berlusconi said in his statement, which was carried by Italian news agencies.The premier’s allegations apparently prompted a late-night phone call from Prodi to Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, Apcom and ANSA reported, citing sources in the center-left coalition. Details of the conversation were not known.”We have won,” Prodi said earlier in his hometown of Bologna. “It’s useless for Berlusconi to find excuses or cause delays. He must go home.”Prodi, who was prime minister from 1996 to 1998, noted that French President Jacques Chirac had called to congratulate him – but other world leaders, including President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI, had not.Prodi, an economist and former European Commission president, won by a narrow margin in this week’s parliamentary election. But he heads a potentially divided coalition that relies on parties ranging from pro-Vatican moderates to Communists.”I do not fear a reversal of the results,” Prodi said a day after official Interior Ministry returns gave him the victory.He played down concerns over the political viability of his coalition, indicating that he would count on the support of Italy’s senators for life to ensure stability in parliament – an additional seven legislators appointed by the president.”They vote and they’re part of the Senate,” Prodi said.Prodi said he began talks on selecting a Cabinet, meeting with coalition parties earlier Wednesday. He did not say when the government might be assembled.Berlusconi refused to concede defeat and renewed his call for a thorough recount.”There are many frauds. Many,” he told reporters earlier Wednesday as he left his office, in comments carried by the Apcom and ANSA news agencies.The dispute with Berlusconi could usher in a period of uncertainty over the results, a process which may take weeks. The outcome of the election must be approved by Italy’s highest court, and it is up the president to give the head of the winning coalition a mandate to form a governmentBerlusconi alluded to the possibility of a long wait.”The (election) results must change,” Berlusconi said. “There are (voting) reports from more than 60,000 districts to verify – one by one.”After each election in Italy, each district goes back and checks ballots that were contested but could not be immediately voided or attributed to any party.Italy’s top criminal court, the Court of Cassation, uses the districts’ reports to recalculate the number of lawmakers assigned to each party.The race for the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament, produced some 43,000 contested ballots – while Prodi’s coalition won by a mere 25,000 votes.In the 315-member Senate, Prodi’s coalition won 158 seats to the center-right’s 156, and one independent was elected.Berlusconi, referring to the vote of Italians abroad, which proved crucial in the Senate race, said: “There are many irregularities and therefore it’s possible that this is not a vote we can say is valid.”Election-related complaints are made to the electoral committees of each chamber of parliament, and must come within 20 days from when the new lawmakers are proclaimed.”You thought you were rid of me?” Berlusconi asked.Vail, Colorado

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