Berlusconi and Prodi.
(photo credit: AP)
After weeks of refusing to concede election defeat, conservative Premier Silvio Berlusconi was expected to step aside Tuesday, clearing the way for a center-left government led by Romano Prodi.
Berlusconi was scheduled to lead a Cabinet meeting at the premier's office and then hand in his resignation to President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, expected at around 1 pm (1100GMT).
Berlusconi is then expected to be asked to stay on as caretaker. The conservative leader, elected to power in 2001, has been the longest-serving premier in postwar Italy.
It was not clear if Ciampi would quickly give the mandate to form a government to Prodi, whose coalition scored a narrow victory over Berlusconi and his conservative allies in April 9-10 parliamentary elections.
While it is up to the Italian president to assign the mandate, Ciampi, whose term expires on May 18, had indicated he wanted the next president to take on that duty. However, there has been widespread speculation that Ciampi might change his mind to put an end to the political limbo.
Prodi told reporters Monday he was still working on dividing up the ministries, which already has provoked some grumbling in his coalition.
"My aim is to be ready, but I have no date to suggest to President Ciampi," Prodi said.
"If he gives me the mandate soon, I have to have the (Cabinet) list in my pocket - if, instead, the mandate is given me a few days later, I'll keep it (in the pocket) a few more days," the center-left leader said.
In a May Day speech on Monday, Ciampi stressed the need for Italy, including its politicians, to get down to business quickly to revive the country's zero-growth economy. He said political tensions must ease if the nation is to work together on that goal.
Media mogul Berlusconi has vowed to continue his fight to keep the premiership through legal challenges of the vote outcome. Berlusconi has also vowed to lead fierce political opposition in the legislature.
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