Berlusconi's Drama Leaves Italy In Minor Role After weeks of political crisis in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appears determined to stay in power and is playing down talk of early elections. Critics say the crisis is consuming the government, leaving pressing matters -- like the economy -- unattended. It's not clear how long the government can survive.
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Berlusconi's Drama Leaves Italy In Minor Role

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Berlusconi's Drama Leaves Italy In Minor Role

Berlusconi's Drama Leaves Italy In Minor Role

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: In a televised speech, he denounced his expulsion as an act of Stalinism.

GIANFRANCO FINI: (Through translator) The People of Freedom Party failed to fulfill its commitment to open dialogue, which is the basis of democracy. The People of Liberty Party does not exist anymore.

POGGIOLI: Political analyst James Walston says this is the key issue.

JAMES WALSTON: Berlusconi's main problem, since he came into politics, has been Berlusconi himself. His first concern is to avoid any of his trials coming to verdict, and then the rest of the government of the country can take second place.

POGGIOLI: In a sign of what some analysts say is his judicial obsession, Berlusconi aired his problems at a world forum on democracy in Russia. He first stunned his international audience by describing his good friend, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, as a gift from God. Then, in an improvised speech before an audience clearly clueless about Italian domestic politics, Berlusconi accused Italian magistrates of having seized unlimited power. And dismissing his rival Fini, he insisted he's fully in charge.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI: (Through translator) These are the petty issues of professional politicians who want to gain from power. They do not affect the country.

POGGIOLI: But political analyst James Walston disagrees. He says while the political power game continues, the business of governing has come to a standstill, and economic issues are being ignored, despite Italy's negative growth numbers.

WALSTON: Italy has lost its position as a commercial and as a producing, manufacturing nation relative to rest of Europe and relative to the rest of the world. There are big divisions within the country; we have seen union problems and wages problems, which have not been dealt with. So, there are big problems which have to be faced and which are not being faced.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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