Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema resigned today after 14 months at the helm of a shaky center-left coalition wracked by internal squabbling and jockeying for power. But he said he has enough parliamentary support to put together a new government and is likely to get another crack at the job.
Following a parliamentary debate in which he was attacked by the opposition and deserted by some coalition partners, D'Alema went to the Quirinale Palace, where he formally submitted his resignation to President Carlo Ciampi.
In the absence of any strong alternatives, Ciampi asked D'Alema to stay on and try to form a new government, the Associated Press reported. It would be Italy's 57th government since the end of World War II. If he can put together a new coalition, D'Alema would then have to go before Parliament again and seek the support of 315 deputies of the 630-member lower house in a confidence vote.
D'Alema's coalition has been torn by infighting, and earlier this month the tiny Socialist party demanded he step down.
In his speech before Parliament today, D'Alema said Italy did not need "traumatic" early elections, and he called for greater efforts to pass election reforms to bring Italy's political tangle closer to a two-party system.
Appealing to various factions of his 11-party alliance, D'Alema promoted the need to decentralize the government and for a commission to probe recent thorny issues, including corruption, the alleged financing of D'Alema's former Communist Party by the KGB, and several unsolved bombings and other political violence.
The speech drew approval from the main coalition partners but did not satisfy the Socialists or Republicans, another minor party.
The current crisis has almost nothing to do with issues, and much to do with the allotment of ministerial seats and the perceived weakness of D'Alema as leader of the coalition that must confront a strong center-right opposition led by media mogul Silvio Berlusconi in elections in spring 2001. The fragile alliance was brought to the brink last weekend when the Socialist party said D'Alema should step down and allow a stronger candidate to lead them to those elections.