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New Italian Parliament Speaker Vows Mafia Crackdown


Italy's new parliament has convened for the first time under the control of Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition. The speaker of the upper house was elected and he pledged to crack down on crime and all the mafias. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

The new Italian parliament controlled by Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition opened its first session Tuesday.

In the upper house, Renato Schifani, a Sicilian-born politician from Berlusconi's Freedom People party, was elected speaker of the house. He is a lawyer and longtime Berlusconi aide.

In a speech shortly after being elected, Schifani said he would be the ''guarantor of everyone''. He said this would be the season of shared reforms with a more streamlined political system.

Schifani also insisted on the need to combat crime without forgetting to be tolerant and open to healthy immigration, which is welcome.

He said that legality and security are the more pressing demands being made by citizens, from north to south. Along with efforts to combat all mafias, Schifani added that Italy must intensify and improve strategies to deal with the spreading crime that is making large areas of the country unlivable.

Voting also took place Tuesday in the lower Chamber of Deputies to elect its speaker. But the only candidate, Gianfranco Fini, of the National Alliance failed to reach the two-thirds quorum of 420 seats required. Voting will again take place on Wednesday and his election is expected when a simple majority will be sufficient.

Mr. Berlusconi's coalition and allies won a commanding majority in both houses two weeks ago, which should allow him to complete the five-year term without the threat of defections. His government will be sworn in next week after President Giorgio Napolitano has ended his consultations with political parties in parliament.

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