Silvio stepping down

Reshuffling cabinet leaves future in doubt

ROME — Media mogul-turned-politician Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday formally resigned as prime minister of Italy’s 59th postwar government but plans to continue running the country by forming a new government.

In Italy a prime minister must step down before making a substantial Cabinet reshuffle.

Berlusconi, whose family holding company Fininvest controls dominant commercial broadcaster Mediaset, has been clinging to power ever since his center-right bloc was beaten in regional elections this month, causing tensions within the coalition.

One of the coalition parties, the Union of Christian Democrats (UDC), has threatened to pull its ministers from the Cabinet, and it demanded that Berlusconi form a fresh government with a new platform.

Another ally, the National Alliance, has also asked for a reshuffled Cabinet.

Both parties want a third ally, the populist Northern League party, which champions more autonomy for Italy’s rich north, to have less weight within government.

“I accept the challenge of forming a new government,” Berlusconi told parliament on Wednesday.

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi — to whom Berlusconi tendered his resignation — may now decide to consult with all political parties before giving Berlusconi the greenlight to return to parliament to face a confidence vote.

It will then be up to his coalition partners to decide whether Berlusconi remains at the helm, possibly until national elections skedded for next year, or whether early elections will be held.

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