Prodi resigns after losing Senate vote on foreign policy


Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi handed in his resignation on 21 February 2007, after far-left members of the Senate defeated proposals to keep troops in Afghanistan and extend a US military base in Italy.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano accepted Prodi’s resignation on 21 February but the prime minister may stay in power if he wins enough support to form a new coalition.

“He is ready to carry on as prime minister if, and only if, he is guaranteed the full support of all the parties in the majority from now on,” Prodi’s spokesman Silvio Sircana told Reuters.

The defeat was inflicted by Communists and Green members of Prodi’s Olive Branch coalition in the Senate over a motion to keep troops in Afghanistan and allow the extension of a US military base in northern Italy.

Prodi only had a one-seat majority in the Senate after winning a narrow victory in Italy’s general elections in April last year. 

Napolitano will start talks with politicians on 22 February to form a new government but is expected to stop short of calling new general elections. He may ask Prodi or another leader to form a new government.

Key members of Prodi’s wide-ranging Olive Branch coalition said that they were ready to renew their confidence in the prime minister. But it remains to be seen whether he can find sufficiently broad support to form a new coalition and carry on with ambitious plans to reform Italy’s health and pension systems.

Political commentators had already raised questions as to Prodi’s ability to push ambitious foreign policy objectives due to his slim majority. 

“Prodi’s centre-left governing coalition is highly fragmented and relies on a narrow parliamentary majority,” wrote Ettore Greco, deputy director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in a commentary for EU policy journal Europe’s World.

“It also includes radical leftist groups which may press the government to renege on some of Italy’s international commitments, such as participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.”

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