Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's defeated prime minister, has made his most scathing attack yet on the "electoral irregularities" that led to Romano Prodi winning the election by the narrowest of margins.
A week before the inauguration of the new Italian parliament, he said Mr Prodi's centre-Left government had been "born with the original sin of electoral fraud" - and reiterated his refusal to acknowledge defeat.
He told journalists later that he would turn up for work as normal at the prime minister's office, when the new parliamentary session opened on Friday, and wait for the Italian President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, 85, to "tell me when to resign".
It was the most colourful shot yet in Mr Berlusconi's "guerrilla" strategy of waging a war of political attrition on Mr Prodi's coalition to bring it down.
"We will exploit every parliamentary rule to disable it and prevent it from destroying all the reforms we have brought in," said Mr Berlusconi, the leader of the Forza Italia Party.
Last week, he urged a "war cabinet" of his closest centre-Right allies - Gianfranco Fini, the leader of the authoritarian Right-wing National Alliance Party, and Pier Fernando Casini, a Christian Democrat - to keep together in order to unseat Mr Prodi quickly.
Mr Berlusconi will stand in June's regional elections in Milan and Naples. To prove his allegiance to the latter, he is buying a villa there and plans to send voters a CD of his love songs.
"Mr Berlusconi is like a reincarnation of Julius Caesar," said Alessandro Amadori, the author of two books on the former prime minister.
"He keeps rallying the troops and doesn't accept defeat."
Mr Berlusconi's key political allies have so far followed his line.
He has been working to keep intact the coalition with which he governed for the past five years. But the uncertainty he is provoking is threatening to affect global financial markets, making it more expensive to service Italy's burgeoning debt.
Mr Berlusconi concluded his evening in Trieste with a song he composed about leaving behind the world of "hot-air" politics and going to a tropical island. He is showing no sign, however, of doing that just yet.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Yes, I'm still alive...
The Telegraph gives a nice picture of Italian politics: