UPDATE 2-Berlusconi calls for strong majority or early vote

* Berlusconi to seek new elections if not enough support

* Says Italy needs strong govt at time of euro zone crisis

(Adds background, details)

By James Mackenzie

ROME, Nov 24 (BestGrowthStock) – Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi said on Wednesday he would seek new elections if his
centre-right government fails to obtain a strong enough majority
in next month’s confidence vote to carry out reforms.

Berlusconi’s struggling government, undermined by a weak
economy and a succession of scandals, faces two confidence votes
in parliament on Dec. 14 that could trigger elections more than
two years ahead of the scheduled date in 2013.

The ruling People of Freedom party (PDL) has been weakened
by an internal split and Berlusconi no longer enjoys a secure
majority in the lower house. But he said he still expected to
defeat a no confidence motion against the government.

“I think that we will have a majority, a good majority in
the lower house and the Senate and that we will govern,” he told
reporters at a news conference on youth policy, adding that
Italy needed steadiness during the euro zone debt crisis.

“Italy needs anything but government instability,” he said.

If Berlusconi lost either vote, he would be forced to
resign. But he indicated that it would not be sufficient to win
a bare majority if his scope for manoeuvre was too constrained
to be able to govern effectively.

“If it is not possible to govern because the confidence of
the majority is not obtained or there is no majority capable of
obtaining approvals for reform, I will go to the head of state
and, with the majority in both houses of parliament, we will ask
to go to elections,” he said.

“I do not believe in the possibility of a government that is
not capable of influencing the reality of the country, of
changing the country and improving it.”


The fate of the government has hung in the balance since
July when Berlusconi split with long-time ally Gianfranco Fini
and more than 40 of his supporters in parliament and he has
faced growing criticism from the business establishment.

If Berlusconi loses on Dec. 14, President Giorgio Napolitano
will have to decide whether to call new elections or appoint an
interim government headed by a figure able to command enough
support to lead a majority in parliament.

On Wednesday, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the head of
Ferrari and one of Italy’s most respected business leaders who
has often been seen as a potential stand-in prime minister
hinted that he might be ready to take a political role.

“I feel the duty to do something for the country,” he said
at a function of the Italia Futura foundation he heads. “The
one-man show is over.”

A scandal over Berlusconi’s links to a teenage nightclub
dancer, a series of corruption probes and his failure to end the
latest garbage crisis in Naples have weighed on his popularity,
which is now at a record low of 35 percent.

He repeated warnings that Italy, with a public debt burden
of almost 120 percent of gross domestic product and weak growth
prospects, needed steadiness during the euro zone debt crisis if
its credit rating is to be protected.

The premium demanded to hold Italian government debt rather
than safer benchmark German bonds has widened in the crisis and
the yield on 10-year Italian bonds briefly hit its highest since
early May at 4.391 percent on Wednesday (IT10YT=TWEB: ).>

The euro zone’s third largest economy has weathered the
crisis better than many peers but with Ireland on its knees and
growing concern about Portugal and Spain, analysts say prolonged
political uncertainty could attract unwelcome market attention.

The 2011 budget law is currently making its way through
parliament and is expected to be passed by Dec. 10.
(Additional reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Ron Askew)

UPDATE 2-Berlusconi calls for strong majority or early vote