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Berlusconi Vows Economic Reforms, Crackdown on Crime, Illegal Immigration


The winner in Italy's national elections, Silvio Berlusconi, has promised to form a streamlined Cabinet that could get to work quickly to tackle the country's problems. After his center-right coalition emerged with a large enough majority to govern, the former prime minister said he will select a team of people who know the problems with the machinery of the government. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

Conservative media mogul Silvio Berlusconi thanked his voters and said he will immediately get down to work.

He obtained a better result than commentators had predicted. But he must keep the Northern League party happy. That party won 8 percent of the vote, giving Mr. Berlusconi his majority in parliament.

Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League, said the people who voted for his party are those who want a different country, more democratic and more federalist. He said his party, which wants tougher restrictions on immigration, is in agreement with Mr. Berlusconi and they will work together.

Final results show that in the 315-member Senate, Mr. Berlusconi's bloc controls 168 seats. In the lower house, his bloc obtained 46 percent of the vote, while his opponent's bloc took 39 percent.

The 71-year-old billionaire, who has been prime minister twice before, said he will apppoint a streamlined cabinet, with 12 ministers, 4 of them women. He pledged to hold his first cabinet meeting in Naples, which has been dealing with a massive garbage crisis.

He said he will immediately get down to work to push through badly needed economic reforms, a crackdown on illegal immigrants and criminals, and a plan to rescue Italy's ailing state airline Alitalia.

An unexpected outcome of the vote was that the next Italian parliament will have fewer parties than in the past. Tiny parties that have held governing coalitions hostage have disappeared. The new parliament will now have only six parties as opposed to 20 after the 2006 election.

Among the parties that have disappeared are the Socialists and the Communists, both of which failed to win the minimum percentage to enter Parliament.

Mr. Berlusconi said that now Italy will be governed like other major Western democracies, with one major party in power and one major party in opposition. He said that with the extremists gone, parliament will be able to operate more quickly and will be able to work on modernizing the country.