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Berlusconi Wins Italy's Elections, Gets to Govern Again

Conservative billionaire Silvio Berlusconi's conservative party clinched a decisive victory in Italy's parliamentary elections. Even before definitive results were in, Berlusconi's his center-left rival Walter Veltroni called conceded defeat. Sabina Castelfranco has this report for VOA from Rome.

For the third time in less than 15 years, media magnate and center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi has gained power in Italy. Projections just hours after polls closed on Monday gave him a substantial lead and a clear majority in both houses of parliament.

His center-left rival, former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, conceded defeat shortly after the voting ended.

Speaking on Italian television, 52-year-old Veltroni said that as is good habit in all Western democracies he called the leader of the People of Freedom, Silvio Berlusconi, to congratulate him on his victory and wish him luck as should be done by every Italian who thinks about his country.

Berlusconi's spokesman Paolo Bonaiuti says Italians had won because they managed to obtain what he calls the "clear and decisive turnaround" after a disastrous leftist government that collapsed in January after 20 months in office.

Berlusconi said he felt a big responsibility and pledged that his government, just like his last one, would serve a full five-year term.

But, he added, that Italy faced difficult months ahead. Many Italians are disillusioned and concerned about a difficult economic situation. Berlusconi has pledged to cut taxes and rein in the country's huge debt. He also declared his government would quickly deal with the sale of loss-making national airline Alitalia and a solve the garbage crisis in Naples.

Voter turnout was high, but slightly lower than in the past elections two years ago. Veltroni said the figure testifies to the strength of Italy's democracy.

He says Italians were urged to return to vote after just two years and 80 percent cast their ballots, a figure which is much higher than that of many other European countries. It showed, he added, that the country still wanted to strongly express its solid relationship with democracy and the institutions.