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Italians Still Waiting for Vote Results

April 18, 2006

ROME (AP) _ Italian politicians continued to spar over election results and their consequences Monday, with final results of the vote still not in and criticism that Romano Prodi’s center-left coalition would not have the parliamentary majority needed to govern efficiently.

The bickering centered around Italy’s weak economy and the decision by conservative Premier Silvio Berlusconi not to concede defeat despite Prodi’s near-certain victory. The premier’s conservatives repeated that the election was too close to call and magistrates continued to examine contested ballots.

``The elections are a country’s highest test of democracy and it’s really serious that there have been those ... who have cried foul and who still today have not accepted defeat,″ Communist lawmaker Marco Rizzo was quoted as saying by news agencies ANSA and Apcom.

Berlusconi said last week that there had been fraud. The premier quickly backed away from his comments, but he and his allies still maintain the need for thorough checks.

``There is still an intricate and complex dispute that doesn’t allow any of the two coalitions to proclaim victory,″ Fabrizio Cicchitto, a senior member of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party told the Italian agencies.

Meanwhile, Italians expressed anger at the protracted squabbling and worried it might set back much-needed economic and political reforms.

``This is a dangerous stalemate,″ said Marta Bacigalupi, a 23-year-old university student. ``There is a complete halt to political activity, which will further delay reforms that need to be implemented.″

The count of contested ballots is widely expected to confirm Prodi’s victory. Once the checks are completed, a top Italian court, the Court of Cassation, must certify the election result before the first meeting of the newly elected parliament, scheduled for April 28.

It was not clear when the confirmation would come.

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Associated Press writer Michele Howe contributed to this story.

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