Italian Prime Minister Prodi resigns

ROME, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned Thursday after a Senate vote produced an expected defeat for his 20-month-old government.

Prodi's administration, which held a thin majority in the 315-seat Senate since it came to power, lost the crucial confidence vote by five tallies, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.


Centrists in Prodi's fragile, eight-party coalition voted against the center-leftist government, an association divided on a number of issues.

The prime minister garnered 155 votes, while 161 senators against him, with one abstention. The results prompted some members to break open bottles of champagne, ANSA reported.

Prodi called for the votes of confidence on Tuesday after Clemente Mastella, the former justice minister, withdrew his support, leaving the prime minister without a majority in the Senate.

Former premier Silvio Berlusconi asked President Giorgio Napolitano to dissolve parliament and set a date for elections. Polls indicate Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia party would win an election handily.

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, head of the Democratic Party, the senior partner in Prodi's coalition, said he did not favor a spring election.


''Elections would push the country into a dramatic crisis,'' said Veltroni, a possible candidate.

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