Italian business and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has been elected Prime Minister of Italy for the third time, beating his centre-left rival, Walter Veltroni.
Mr Berlusconi, leader of the recently-formed People of Liberty party, took control of both the Senate and the lower house of parliament, with about 47% of the vote, against Veltroni's 38%; turnout was around 80%.
Elections were called following the collapse of the centre-left coalition under Romano Prodi, which had governed since mid-2006. A major factor in the traditional instability of Italian governments has been the preponderance of small parties. In this election, the number of parties represented in the chamber has reduced from 26 to six, giving reason for optimism. However, Berlusconi will still need to do difficult deals with potential partners. The Northern League, which wants extensive autonomy for Italy's regions, nearly doubled its vote, and without its support Mr Berlusconi would lose his majority in both houses.
Berlusconi has promised to introduce legislation to revive Italy's faltering economy, which is predicted to register growth of 0% this year; yet despite massive public debt, he has promised tax cuts and other financial incentives to voters.
15 April 2008