After an aggressive speech to the Italian senate, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has given his resignation to President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. He stated his intention to try to form a new government immediately and see through his mandate to lead the country until 2006. Faced with a potentially damaging no-confidence vote, Berlusconi was left little choice but to resign his post and seek an accommodation with his centre-right coalition partners. The crisis was brought to a head when the Unione Democratici Cristiani (UDC), the smallest of the four parties making up the longest-serving government in Italian history, withdrew its support following the poor centre-right showing in recent regional elections. Creating a new consensus will not be easy as the UDC was not the only coalition partner to criticise Berlusconi openly. The Alleanza Nazionale, whose power base is in the south, has called for less favouritism to the countrys richer northern regions, certain to be resisted by the Lega Nord.

During the regional polls, centre-left opposition parties won 11 of the 13 regions contested and claimed some 54 per cent of the popular vote.