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Berlusconi Waits For Outcome Of Referendums


And Sylvia, remind us what people were voting on, here.

POGGIOLI: But the biggest issue was whether there would be quorum, 50 percent-plus-one of eligible voters, and that seems to have been accomplished. At least 57 percent voted. And of those, more than 90 percent voted to repeal all four laws that were passed by the Berlusconi government.

INSKEEP: Wow. What a slap in the face to the prime minister of Italy. Now, I want to ask about that quorum that you mentioned, Sylvia, because we spoke earlier today, and some people will have heard you saying that the government, the people in the government were urging their citizens not to vote today. What were they saying, and how was that received by people?

POGGIOLI: As you said, Berlusconi and several other ministers said they would not vote, and they urged Italians to go to the beach instead of the voting booth. This was probably the first Italian campaign carried out mostly on the Internet and by volunteers on the street.

INSKEEP: You said these were preliminary results, that the votes went against Berlusconi, overwhelmingly. Is there any doubt that that will be the final result, or something close to it?

POGGIOLI: No. It seems that these are all the exit polls. The interior minister will probably give the official results in some hours from now, but it certainly seems that this is a given. Even Berlusconi himself is reported to have said we're going to have to find a new kind of energy policy.

INSKEEP: Are there larger implications for Berlusconi's government, here? Could he, for example, lose his job over this?

POGGIOLI: Last month, his hand-picked candidates in Naples and in his home base Milan were defeated. His party lost many other races throughout the country, and Berlusconi's coalition allies, the Northern League, also suffered election losses for the first time in its history. So analysts say this could convince the Northern League to pull the plug from the government.

INSKEEP: Let me make sure I understand what you're saying: Is his hold on his own party not that secure, on his own governing coalition not that secure at this point?

POGGIOLI: It's not secure, but it does not mean that the government is going to fall. He has a parliamentary majority. He has sufficient votes in parliament to pass. But if one of - if his major coalition ally to decides if this is no longer a convenient marriage of convenience, they - he - the Northern League may pull the plug, and that would force the government to collapse.

INSKEEP: Sylvia, thanks very much.

POGGIOLI: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.