Italian Vote Likely After Government Collapse

ROME -- Italy's political crisis enters a decisive week with a snap election and a return to power of Silvio Berlusconi's center right looking ever more likely after the collapse of Romano Prodi's government.

President Giorgio Napolitano granted himself a day of reflection on Sunday, planning to resume consultations with political leaders on Monday and end them on Tuesday evening.

Napolitano, an 82-year-old former communist, must decide whether to dissolve the parliament and call an election for the spring or mandate someone to first try to form an interim government to enact electoral reforms.

Most center-left parties, left in tatters by the government's collapse last Thursday, favor an interim government while the center right wants an election.

"I think Italy does not need any government of national unity but a government that will get down to work immediately after Italians vote," said Berlusconi, who stands to return to power after his electoral defeat in 2006.

A poll in Sunday's Corriere della Sera newspaper showed that 61 percent of Italians wanted an early election and only 33 percent preferred some form of transitional government.

Polls published by Corriere showed that the center left would win between 42.4 and 45 percent of the vote, while Berlusconi's center right would win between 54.5 and 57.6 percent.