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PM Berlusconi cries fraud in Italian vote drama

Silvio Berlusconi is set to fight his centre-left rival's poll win to the bitter end after claiming fraud and vote-rigging had robbed him of victory.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2006 13:34 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was set on Thursday to fight his centre-left rival's election win to the bitter end after claiming fraud and "vote-rigging" had robbed him of victory.

"(There was) so much vote-rigging, I am confident the result must change," Berlusconi, whose House of Freedoms bloc lost the election to Romano Prodi's Union coalition by a tiny margin, told reporters late on Wednesday in Rome.

"The rigging was all in one direction, it was absolutely not evenly spread," he said.

"We have to check the records of 60,000 polling stations, one by one. The result must change because there was too much fraud in several parts of Italy."

The billionaire leader, who has refused to concede defeat to Prodi and earlier denounced what he called "a great many irregularities" in Sunday and Monday's vote, asked the journalists: "Did you think you'd got rid of me?"

Prodi brushed aside the flamboyant premier's claim, telling him he was in the grip of an "identity crisis" and it was time to step aside after five years in power.

"Berlusconi has been trying to spread concern and in spite of his defeat he continues to cast doubt on the legality of our victory. I can assure you there is no doubt about our victory," Prodi said in his northern hometown of Bologna.

"We won and it is useless for Berlusconi to try to delay (recognition of our victory). Berlusconi must go home."

However, at his first major news conference since his seat-of-the-pants win, he conceded the election chaos could leave Italy in political limbo without a government until mid-May.

First Published: Apr 13, 2006 13:34 IST