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Berlusconi may order partial recount - newspapers

Written by: Staff
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ROME, Apr 13 (Reuters) Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is considering issuing a decree to order a partial recount of Italy's general election results after denouncing the poll as fraudulent, newspapers reported today.

Berlusconi demanded late yesterday that his centre-left rival Romano Prodi be stripped of victory in the April 9-10 ballot, pushing Europe's fourth largest economy towards a full-blown political crisis.

According to Interior Ministry data, the centre left won the election for the lower house of parliament by just 25,000 votes out of 38.1 million ballots cast.

Berlusconi has refused to concede defeat, saying he has evidence of widespread voting irregularities.

Under Italian law only a handful of disputed votes can be reviewed immediately after an election, but newspapers said Berlusconi might use his powers as caretaker prime minister to issue a decree that would widen the post-election scrutiny.

The increasingly bitter stand-off tempted comparisons with the 2000 U.S. presidential election, when victory was handed to George W. Bush following a recount battle in Florida.

''At this point it is difficult not to fear a sort of Italian-style Florida. A long, destabilising confrontation over the regularity of more than one million votes,'' Corriere della Sera newspaper wrote.

''The only thing is that here one can't see a final agreed conclusion,'' it added.

Prodi has condemned Berlusconi's efforts to overturn the election result and his allies accused the prime minister of stoking dangerous political tensions.

''Berlusconi, stop poisoning Italy and delegitimising the Italians' vote,'' Piero Fassino, head of the biggest leftist party, the Democrats of the Left, said late yesterday.

MORE REUTERS SHB PM1442

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