Auteur: | By Teresa Küchler
Italy's top court on Wednesday afternoon (19 April) confirmed that centre-left opposition leader Romano Prodi won last week's close-run general election, but voting controversy refuses to go away.
The news was broken by Italian SkyTV amid pcitures of cheering Prodi supporters.
The Court of Cassation's ruling means Mr Prodi carried the win by just 25,224 votes, or 0.06 percent of the more than 39 million cast. The center-left also won a two-seat advantage in the Senate.
The ruling was based on the review of just 5,200 ballots that were not initially included in last week's count.
But supporters of sitting prime minister Silvio Berlusconi earlier the same day said they had received information that the true number of ballot irregularities was much higher.
The claims, made in Brussels by MEPs Mario Mauro and Antonio Tajani from Mr Berlsuconi's Forza Italia party, have added a European dimension to the Italian dispute.
Mr Berlusconi demanded immediately after results last week that up to 40,000 votes should be rechecked, saying repeatedly "The election result has to change because there was widespread fraud."
The controversy revolves around votes cast by expatriate Italians from as far afield as Brussels, the US and Latin America.
Non-resident Italians were this year for the first time allowed to choose 12 lower house members and 6 seats in the senate.
The two Forza Italia MEPs said that out of the 3,620 eligible Italians residing in Argentina, 859 did not receive any ballot papers due to incorrect addresses.
In San Francisco, 1,900 expats allegedly did not get their papers on time while an Italian woman living in Brussels could not get hold of her ballot despite repeated phonecalls to the Italian consulate.
Mr Mauro and Tajani also spoke of the same people voting twice, votes secured by payments from the centre-left opposition and votes secured by corporate pressure and "voting courses" given to employees by Italian company managers abroad.
The Forza Italia evidence, based on letters of complaint from non-resident Italian supporters and an independent journalist's film, had led the MEPs to ask the supreme court to delay its ruling.