Rome - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's rival Gianfranco Fini took a first step to launching his own party on Tuesday, in a sign he is preparing his breakaway group for the prospect of an early election.
Fini's “Future and Freedom for Italy” group has promised to back Berlusconi's centre-right government since the two leaders dramatically split in July, but open hostilities between the two sides has shortened the odds on elections in the spring.
“We don't know what's around the corner and I hope the government lasts its full term, but we need to be ready for any surprises,” Fini told a closed-door gathering of supporters, according to those who participated.
Fini's move to lay the groundwork for a new party comes just two years after the 58-year old politician merged his right-wing National Alliance party with Berlusconi's Forza Italia, creating the ruling People of Freedom party.
But relations between the long-time allies soured amid accusations and mudslinging that culminated in July with Berlusconi throwing Fini out of the party he helped create.
Fini promised his new group - which will be officially launched at a Milan rally in January - would not repeat the errors made by the National Alliance, which saw some of its key politicians remain with Berlusconi's group during the split.
“I say no to jealousy, personal rivalries, hawks and doves: from now on let's talk about politics because the boat belongs to everyone and all of us must row in the same direction,” Fini told his supporters. - Reuters